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Boston Red Sox tab Will Venable as bench coach in Alex Cora’s return

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The Boston Red Sox have hired Will Venable to be a bench coach on manager Alex Cora’s staff.

Venable spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Cubs as a first- and third-base coach after a 12-year career as a major league outfielder, mostly with the San Diego Padres. Venable, whose father, Max, also spent a dozen years in the majors, played both basketball and baseball at Princeton.

The Red Sox also said Jason Varitek has been named game-planning coordinator, Ramon Vazquez will be the quality control coach and interpreter, and Kevin Walker has been named bullpen coach.

“Will is a bright, young mind that will add a lot to what is already a strong collection of coaches,” Cora said in a statement. “I am also pleased that both Jason and Ramon will step forward and play larger roles for us. I am thrilled to have so many great baseball minds on our staff and I look forward to their contributions as we set out to achieve our goals.”

Pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, first-base coach Tom Goodwin and third-base coach Carlos Febles will be back in their previous roles.

Cora is returning to the dugout after serving a one-season suspension for his role in the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scheme. Ron Roenicke managed the last-place Red Sox during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tampa Bay Rays OF Randy Arozarena released in Mexico

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Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena was released by Mexican authorities Thursday after his former partner told a judge in Yucatan state that she did not want to press charges.

Arozarena had been detained Tuesday for a situation involving custody of his daughter, just weeks after he was named MVP of the American League Championship Series.

The Yucatan state prosecutors’ office confirmed Thursday that Arozarena was released because the former partner said any damages had been settled.

Arozarena has made no public comment, and it was not clear whether he had a lawyer.

The Yucatan state prosecutors’ office said Tuesday that Arozarena was detained “for problems relating to his ex-partner.”

It was not clear whether he was formally charged with any crime. Mexican law allows a two-day period for prosecutors to decide whether to bring charges. Normally suspects are held in jail pending that decision.

Local media reported that Arozarena married a Colombian woman earlier this month in Merida, the Yucatan state capital.

The Rays had said Tuesday that they were aware of the reports that Arozarena had been detained.

Arozarena hit .377 with 10 home runs and 14 RBIs in 20 postseason games for Tampa Bay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Atlanta Braves’ Charlie Morton has faint memories of previous stint with team

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ATLANTA — Charlie Morton is back with the team where his big league career started.

Not that he has a lot of memories from that rookie season with the Atlanta Braves.

“That was 11 years ago,” Morton said Wednesday.

Actually, it was 12.

“I don’t remember a whole lot about it,” he continued. “I was only with the Braves in the big leagues for about four months.”

Morton returned to the Braves after agreeing to a $15 million, one-year contract, further bolstering the rotation of a team that came within one victory of reaching the World Series.

While only a handful of people Morton knows are still in the organization, he said he was impressed by what he saw from afar.

“This is as talented a group as you’re going to find,” he said. “I’m excited to get in that clubhouse, be around them and get to know them.”

Morton, 37, lives in Bradenton, Florida, and had hoped to return to the Tampa Bay Rays for a third season. But the team declined his $15 million option, so he settled for the next best choice.

Returning to the Braves.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos made it clear right away that he was interested in Morton, especially after the Braves struggled throughout the shortened 2020 season to put together an effective rotation.

“They were aggressive early,” Morton said. “They were one of the first teams to call. Alex was checking in frequently.”

With four young children, Morton said proximity to home was the most important factor in his decision. Atlanta is a short flight from the Tampa Bay area. The Braves’ spring training complex in North Port is less than an hour’s drive away.

“My hope was that we could stay close to home,” Morton said. “The situation in Tampa was awesome.”

Morton was called up by the Braves in 2008. He made 15 starts on a team that lost 90 games, going 4-8 with a 6.15 ERA.

He was back in Triple-A the following year when the Braves dealt him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a package of prospects for Nate McLouth.

Morton turned out to be quite the late bloomer, breaking through with the best years of his career well into his 30s. He went 29-10 over two seasons with the Houston Astros, making the All-Star Game for the first time at age 34. He moved on to the Rays in 2019, going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and making the Midsummer Classic for the second time.

Along the way, Morton has become one of baseball’s greatest postseason pitchers. The right-hander is the first hurler in big league history to earn four victories in winner-take-all playoff games.

After going 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA in nine starts this past season, he burnished his clutch credentials by winning three more games in the playoffs. His streak of seven straight postseason wins finally ended with a Game 3 loss to the Dodgers in the World Series.

Morton certainly has a chance to get back to the playoffs with the Braves, who have captured three straight NL East titles. He joins another free-agent acquisition, Drew Smyly, in a rotation led by Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie sensation Ian Anderson, who is only 22.

Atlanta is also counting on the recovery of another budding star, 23-year-old Mike Soroka, who went down this past season with a torn Achilles. When the rotation is at full strength, it should be one of the best groups in all of baseball.

“They’ve got some really good pitchers,” Morton said. “I didn’t realize how young they were were. I looked them up and I was like, ‘Dang.'”

You’ll have to excuse his lack of knowledge about the Braves.

It’s been a while.

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Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies involved in four-player trade

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The Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds swapped three pitchers in a four-player trade Wednesday.

The Rockies acquired right-hander Robert Stephenson and minor league outfielder Jameson Hannah from the Reds for right-handed pitchers Jeff Hoffman and Case Williams, a minor leaguer.

Stephenson, 27, made 10 relief appearances for the Reds last season and 59 in 2019. In five seasons with the Reds, he was 10-13 with a 5.15 ERA across 104 appearances that included 22 starts.

Hoffman, also 27, went 2-1 with a 9.28 ERA in a career-high 16 relief appearances for Colorado in 2020. In five major league seasons with the Rockies, he was 10-16 with a 6.40 ERA in 68 games, including 38 starts. Colorado acquired him from the Blue Jays as part of the Troy Tulowitzki deal in 2015.

Hannah, 23, didn’t appear in a game in 2020. The Reds acquired him from Oakland in 2019.

Williams is an 18-year-old prospect from Castle Rock, Colorado, who was selected by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2020 first-year player draft.

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