Sweeney keen on redemption

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Last spring, Ryan Sweeney came to Red Sox camp as part of the 40-man roster and ended up in the starting lineup on Opening Day.

This year, he's a non-roster invitee with a non-guaranteed deal that will pay him $1.25 million if he makes the Opening Day roster.

Will that play with his mind? Not really. He says his offseason included sessions with a mental coach -- he declined to name him because "he doesn't really work with baseball players." Combine that with a two-week, mid-January session in Orange County with Hall of Famer Rod Carew, and Sweeney is feeling more confident than he did a year ago.

"Everything feels great in BP," he said. "So that next step is taking that into facing live pitchers. Ben (general manager Ben Cherington) told me, 'You're working on your swing, so don't go out there and feel like you need to produce right away. If there's something you need to work on, work on it.' I just want to go out and have a solid spring training."

The rap on Sweeney is his power numbers. He went homerless in 219 plate appearances last year and has just 14 homers in 1,900 career plate appearances. You wouldn't think that working with Carew would help Sweeney there -- Carew averaged fewer than five homers a season in his glorious 19-year career -- but Sweeney believes the changes Carew made put him in a better position to drive the ball for distance.

"A lot of the stuff we worked on had to do with my lower half -- my path to the ball, the way I was using my lower half," he said. "I just changed from a toe tap to a little leg kick. It's not really changing my swing as far as my hands. He made it pretty self-explanatory. Once you got it, it was a good concept. I feel a lot better at the plate."

This season is all about redemption. Sweeney says he could have signed with three other teams and had a better chance of making the team and getting playing time, but he chose to come back to the Red Sox because of how his 2012 season ended.

On July 30, Sweeney -- upset that Omar Infante had robbed him of a hit with a diving stop -- punched a door, fracturing a knuckle on his left pinkie, landing him on the disabled list.

When he signed with the Red Sox in January, he tweeted: "Don't worry redsox nation no punching doors this year #gosox."

It wasn't the only derailment during what seemed to be a promising season for Sweeney.

While hitting .311 in May, he spent time on the DL after suffering a concussion while making a diving catch. Later, while playing through a foot injury that prompted manager Bobby Valentine to call him "a trooper," he saw his average plummet during a 5-for-31 slump and again landed on the DL. In the end, his numbers were .260/.303/.373, with his highest-ever strikeout rate.

"The first couple of months started off good and went downhill from there," he said. "Nobody wants to have that happen. At the time, I was ticked off -- especially with me getting to play more because (Jacoby) Ellsbury got hurt and (Carl) Crawford was out. There was potential I could have played even more at the end of the season.

"But after the year was over, I said, 'I'm not going to worry about it anymore.' I've moved past it. It happened. You try to forget about it and move forward. My hand feels great now. I just have to put it behind me."