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Observations on Game 3: Owens up and down, Koji struggles, Cecchini recalls nasty allergic reaction

03.06.15 at 4:47 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Quick observations after a 5-3 loss to the Marlins at JetBlue Park. . .

KOJI STRUGGLES: Closer Koji Uehara made his debut in the third inning and allowed a lot of loud contact for a single, two doubles, and a run, not that he’s sweating it.

“I’m not even looking at my location or anything, I’m just trying to get my innings in,” Uehara said through an interpreter. “Just being on the mound and being able to repeat my pitches. I think I was able to do that.”

At this point in spring, there’s little point in paying much attention to results, and with his 40th birthday closing in, there’s no reason for Uehara to push the envelope.

UP AND DOWN FOR OWENS: Prized left-hander Henry Owens tossed two very different innings en route to the loss. He struck out two in his first inning of work, then was touched for three hits and two runs in his second.

“You don’€™t make too much out of it,” manager John Farrell said. “First time out, I thought he threw a couple of breaking balls to some left-handers that had good depth and finish to them, and that has always been a development pitch for him. He throws the ball over the plate. He’€™s a strike thrower with quality stuff. I think the more we see him against Major League hitters, that’€™s the primary goal in camp for Henry.’€

The big blow off Owens was an RBI triple by Jordany Valdespin.

TWO SIDES OF HANLEY: Left fielder Hanley Ramirez went 1 for 3 with another crushed double. He also continued to play left field tentatively, content to cede in-between balls to center fielder Mookie Betts.

“His early-work BP has been outstanding,” Farrell said. “He hits the ball as hard as anyone. He got a little bit of a cutter up in the strike zone, stayed on it. He’€™s certainly a threat in the middle of the order.”

Ramirez continues to work on fielding balls off the Wall and getting good reads off the bat.

ALLERGIC REACTION HURT CECCHINI IN ’14: Third baseman Garin Cecchini singled and drove in a pair of runs. The youngster has bulked up since last season and said he checked into camp at 225 pounds, eight more than last year, and 18 more than he was at his lowest last season, when he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic bactrim.

“It was awful,” Cecchini said. “I couldn’t eat or drink anything.”

Cecchini was on the medicine to help heal a sty on his eye, but the reaction left his mouth full of sores. He ended up losing 10 pounds in the middle of the season, though he regained his strength by the end of the year in time to hit his first big league homer in September.

Justin Masterson relieved to declare himself healthy after first spring outing

03.06.15 at 3:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ Ask Justin Masterson if his arm ever felt right last year, and he shakes his head.

“There was never really a point where everything was right,” he said. “I was trying to tough guy through it, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it’s a great learning experience.”

Masterson dealt with an assortment of injuries last year to his knee, shoulder, and oblique. They combined to produce the worst season of his career (7-9, 5.88). They also made him an ideal bounce-back candidate for an organization that knew him well after drafting him in the second round of the 2006 draft.

On Friday at JetBlue Park, Masterson made his spring debut against the Marlins and looked healthy at the very least, allowing just one unearned run on a hit and walk in two innings. He generally kept his sinker down and induced the groundball outs that are his forte.

“As we continue to progress, I’m really happy where it’s at,” Masterson said. “The arm’s doing a really a great job. We’re still a month away. There’s still a lot of throwing to be done. Every single time is a checkpoint. You look at it. You’re not really overly caring about results until we’re a few games away from go time.”

This is a welcome change from last spring with the Indians, when Masterson already knew he didn’t feel right.

“There weren’t really many times, there wasn’t really any time, when it just felt great in an overall sense,” Masterson said. “It kind of helps for this year to be open and honest, to be able to work through stuff.”

Masterson feels good about outing No. 1, although he didn’t recognize the Prince song that accompanied his journey to the mound.

“Just doing the routine, going through the routine of the starting process before the game, warming up, starting things, having your boys run out there with you, having some random music that I didn’t pick,” he said. “I had no clue what they were playing to really pump me up. It was fun to be out there. Those are the small victories that give you an extra mental edge.”

Is Matt Barnes bullpen’s new secret weapon?

03.06.15 at 10:37 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have insisted they view right-handed prospect Matt Barnes as a starter, but on Friday morning, manager John Farrell opened the door for Barnes to make an impact in the bullpen.

It’s easy to see why. On Thursday night, Barnes struck out three in two innings of shutout relief against the Twins. His fastball touched 97 mph, he featured a tight breaking ball, and he looked very much like a guy who could help solve a power deficiency at the back of the bullpen.

There are probably two spots up for grabs, Farrell said, with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and Anthony Varvaro safe bets to make the squad. Lefty Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando are the favorites for the last two spots, but could Barnes alter that equation?

“If everyone was healthy, we probably viewed two spots in competition among a group of four or five,” Farrell said. “Does an outing like last night increase the pool? I don’t know that we need to anoint that yet, but that was a really good outing to watch.”

The Red Sox selected Barnes, 24, in the first round of the 2011 draft out of UConn. He made five relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA last September, but has been used almost exclusively in the rotation (72 starts, 1 relief appearance) in the minors.

“I don’€™t have a whole lot of history with Matt Barnes, but that was a different guy than even what we saw in September,” Farrell said. “Sometimes you look for silver linings in an otherwise frustrating year and talking with Matt Barnes, he has a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher, what’€™s required at the major league level and the constant focus and concentration needed, all those were talked openly by him. And he went out last night and demonstrated some of the things he learned last year. Breaking balls much tighter. I’€™ve never seen that kind of velocity from him. He was a different guy last night.”

Might that stuff play in the bullpen?

“We have an understanding what the physical abilities are,” Farrell said. “And you try to get a sense of how are they managing the inning. When things are starting to go, when they’€™re getting challenged inside of an inning, are they handling it in a calm matter? Is their poise and composure remaining the same? Or are you seeing it play out a little bit?”

File this one under: Something to watch.

Read More: 2015 spring training, matt barnes,

Observations on Game 2: Dustin Pedroia backs up his words, Joe Kelly gets rust off, Xander Bogaerts goes deep

03.05.15 at 10:23 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Observations from the Red Sox‘ 9-8 loss to the Twins at the grand re-opening of Hammond Stadium.

PEDROIA GOES DEEP: Dustin Pedroia assured us that he was feeling healthy for the first time in years. It showed on his grand slam in the fourth.

“I knew I was back to normal in the offseason,” Pedroia said. “Obviously I told you guys that, but you can only believe me if you see it. So there you go.”

It goes without saying what difference a healthy Pedroia would make atop the Red Sox lineup. The home run against live pitching was good to see, particularly since he hadn’t exhibited tremendous power in early batting practice sessions.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen that type of swing in a good amount of time,” noted manager John Farrell.

“I’m just trying to come out and try to get better,” Pedroia said. “That’€™s all I’€™m focused on. I’€™m not worried about anything else. Every day, try to do something to help the team. That’€™s what I’€™m concentrating on.”

Might the grand slam be a sign?

“Just watch,” Pedroia said. “My job is to play. Your job is to watch.”

KELLY LOOSENS UP: Right-hander Joe Kelly wasn’t crisp, allowing a series of rockets in 1.2 innings that including seven hits, four runs, and two strikeouts. That’s nothing new for the former Cardinal, who traditionally struggles in spring, as his last four Grapefruit League ERAs attest: 6.28, 4.91, 3.60, 9.00.

“My springs aren’t usually good,” Kelly said. “My spring numbers are actually pretty terrible, from what I can remember.”

Kelly is incorporating a four-seam fastball into his repertoire and threw it quite a bit. While he touched 95 mph, he couldn’t put it where he wanted, which is to be expected this early in camp.

“I threw it a lot, yeah,” he said. “It’s just not there yet. It was moving a little bit more than I’d like it to, catching too much plate. I couldn’t spot it where it needs to be yet, but that’ll come.”

He acknowledged a lack of arm strength, which was reflected in an 88 mph fastball. “I don’t think I’ve done that since I was 13,” he joked.

In any event, Kelly was happy to throw his full pitch mix of four-seamer, two-seamer, curveball, slider, and changeup.

“Moving on forward, it’s just making everything a little more crisp, being able to locate my fastball better and throw it where it needs to be thrown, and get my offspeed pitches to spin a little better,” he said. “But that comes with arm strength, too.”

THE BOGAERTS CONUNDRUM: Shortstop Xander Bogaerts had a strong night at the plate, effortlessly crushing a home run over the 405-foot sign in center with a swing that makes you say, “Holy cow, this kid’s still only 22.”

But he also made a bad throw defensively on a ball that was generously ruled a hit. He ranged up the middle to snare a grounder, but Mike Napoli couldn’t scoop his low throw in the dirt. The range and first-step quickness were good. The throw was not.

“It always feel good when you make a play like that,” Bogaerts said. “I should’ve thrown it in Nap’s chest to get the out. It’s spring training, early on. That’s definitely a play in the regular season I’ll make.

“I don’t think I had a lot of problems fielding the ball (last year). Most of my errors were throwing. I’m just working with Butter and Sandoval and the other infielders to be more consistent with my throws.”

Pedroia said Bogaerts has clearly worked hard on his fielding over the last year.

“He’€™s working his butt off, all the right movements, trying to do a lot of things to get better,” Pedroia said. “The play he made up the middle, his first step, usually he dives and he hits the grass. He was on the dirt and grass so it’€™s almost there. If he dives and catches that ball on the dirt, his hand’€™s not wet and he can throw it to Nap’€™s chest. It was a great play. Those are the things he’€™s working on and it’€™s starting to show.

“That’€™s all infield play is. It’€™s just angle, first step, eliminating movements that shouldn’€™t be there. He’€™s getting better at it.”

The home run was majestic, standing out even on a night when the ball was flying out of the park.

“He looked great. He looked strong,” Pedroia said. “Every day he’€™s working at short too, working on his defense, trying to get better there. It’€™s going to be fun to watch.”

OGANDO THROWS GAS: The results weren’t tremendous, thanks to a two-run homer, but the Red Sox had to be encouraged by the spring debut of reliever Alexi Ogando, who hit 95 mph with multiple fastballs and struck out two in an inning.

The former All-Star is attempting to bounce back after posting a 6.84 ERA in 25 innings for the Rangers last year. At his best, he strikes out close to a batter an inning and could fill a key role in the Red Sox pen.

Rusney Castillo: Trip to minors wouldn’t alter ‘plan,’ ‘attitude,’ or ‘perspective’

03.05.15 at 3:30 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo. (WEEI.com)

Rusney Castillo. (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There is a long way to go before the Red Sox Opening Day roster is decided upon, but there is one scenario that should be broached: Rusney Castillo possibly starting in the minor leagues.

It isn’t believed that Castillo’s left oblique strain will keep him out long enough to dent his chance at earning a spot in the Red Sox‘ outfield. (“I feel a lot better,” he told WEEI.com through translator Adrian Lorenzo, “especially compared to the other days.”)

Still, the presence of Mookie Betts in center field, Shane Victorino in right field and Allen Craig and Daniel Nava presenting value on the roster has led to the thought that the $72.5 million man might not start the season in the majors.

When asked about such an outcome, Castillo offered a level-headed response.

“To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective,” he said. “If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come.”

Helping Castillo’s approach is the security which comes with a contract that keeps him under Red Sox control through 2020.

“Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” he noted. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”

An interesting side note to Castillo possibly landing in the minor leagues is the debate throughout baseball about Cuban players being resistant to such a lot in life. Some have said that those making such great sacrifices to have a chance at playing in the big leagues often times are disillusioned when having to toil in the minors.

Castillo, for one, doesn’t subscribe to such a narrative.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard any complaints or frustrations from them on that end,” the outfielder said. “From my personal experience, I took it as part of the process if that’s what the management and the people who signed me decided what was best for when I got to the big leagues, to be as prepared as possible. I don’t remember being any sort of frustration or questioning why I was going to the minor leagues. Looking back at it now, it helped me a lot to have that experience.”

John Farrell’s history with Paul Molitor dates back to his first appearance

03.05.15 at 3:05 pm ET
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Back in my days at the Boston Herald, I wrote a piece about pitchers’ big league debuts. The subject came up again on Thursday, because the Red Sox open the spring against the Twins, who are managed by Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who happens to be the first batter Farrell ever faced.

The Herald story is archived, so I can’t provide a link, but here’s a chunk of it dealing with Farrell and Molitor, who had a more memorable confrontation a few days later in that 1987 season, when Farrell ended Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak.

Farrell had just turned 25 when he was summoned from Triple A Nashville to Cleveland in August of 1987 for a spot start.

He arrived at the old Cleveland Stadium at 6:30 p.m., figuring he’d get acclimated before debuting a couple of days later.

Then the Indians and Brewers engaged in a wild one that burned through Cleveland’s thin bullpen. By the start of the 12th, closer Doug Jones had already thrown four innings and didn’t have a fifth in him, so Farrell, who had literally made only one relief appearance in his life, was summoned.

Leading off: future Hall of Famers Molitor and Robin Yount.

“I threw two pitches,” Farrell recalled, “and had runners on first and second.”

Farrell didn’t let those two singles get to him. He “somehow found a way to weasel out of it,” inducing Glenn Braggs to ground into a double play before Pat Tabler won it with a walkoff single in the bottom of the frame, making Farrell a winner in his debut.

“There’s an array of emotions running through you,” Farrell said. “First time in the big leagues, extra-inning game, I’ve never pitched in the bullpen before, and here you are with two guys at the peak of their games at the time. It was daunting, to say the least. I threw 15 or 16 pitches, and I’ll bet 13 of them were fastballs. I couldn’t feel my body all that much.”

Farrell made his scheduled start three days later and improved to a 2-0 with a complete-game victory over the Tigers. Five days later, he became a footnote in history by ending Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak as part of an epic duel with Brewers lefty Teddy Higuera, who tossed a 10-inning 1-0 shutout in a walkoff win that ended with Molitor on deck.

“That was Teddy Higuera night,” Farrell said. “Rick Manning drove in the winning run in the 10th and got booed.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, John Farrell, Paul Molitor,

Red Sox starters have identified their ace (thanks to some T-shirts)

03.05.15 at 2:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Evidently, the Red Sox starting pitchers are trying to put punctuation on one of this camp’s most talked-about subjects.

As John Tomase mentioned in his column Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had an interesting comment when asked about the Cole Hamels rumors during the team’s radio broadcast Tuesday, saying, “I think the guys in that group like it, that’s there’s a tension about it and [external] talk about it. I think quietly, behind closed doors, they sort of like it, and there’s some motivation that comes through it.”

Thursday, the motivation came out into the team’s clubhouse.

Clay Buchholz took the initiative to make up T-shirts and hand them out to each member of the starting rotation. Each has the pitchers’ last names and number on the back. But four are light blue with the saying, “He’s the ace” on the front, while one — reserved for that day’s starting pitcher — is gray and says, “I’m the ace.” (Joe Kelly got to be the first to wear the gray one since he gets the start Thursday night in the Red SoxGrapefruit League opener against the Twins.)

“It shows the guy that there is no pressure on them,” Buchholz said. “They can just go out and pitch. Everybody has confidence in their ability. It’s one of those things to keep everything loose and have fun with it.”

To read Tomase’s column on the subject, click here.

Read More: 2015 spring training, wade miley,

Torey Lovullo was almost opposing manager for Red Sox Grapefruit League opener

03.05.15 at 11:15 am ET
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Torey Lovullo

Torey Lovullo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox take on the Twins Thursday night in their Grapefruit League opener. (The game, which will be played at Minnesota’s newly-renovated/renamed spring training complex, CenturyLink Sports Complex, can be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network immediately following the Hot Stove Show: Spring Training Edition. It all starts at 6 p.m.)

For Joe Kelly, it will be an opportunity to take the mound for the first time this spring. For Jackie Bradley, the meeting allows for a chance to take advantage of not having to share time with Rusney Castillo while the Cuban outfielder recovers from a strained left oblique. And for Torey Lovullo, it is a reminder of what almost was.

Lovullo was the finalist for the Twins manager job, which ultimately went to Paul Molitor. By all accounts, it was a decision that came right down to the end of the process, with Molitor’s ties with the organization perhaps offering the ultimate advantage.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for that whole group that’s in their front office. I had great interactions,” Lovullo said of the Twins’ decision-makers, which was led by general manager Terry Ryan. “I learned a lot. I learned a lot about them. I know they’re going to be pushing in the right direction.

“When it goes as far as it did and you’re one of the final two, you’re no longer a 10 percent chance because you’re one of 10. Now it’s 50-50. You start to feel a little bit better and allow yourself to say, ‘You know what, I’ve done my job in executing my thoughts to them and it’s working so let’s keep going.’ There was a process that kept going all the way until Paul Molitor was named as manager that made me feel like I had a real legitimate chance.”

Lovullo flew out to Minnesota for his initial injury, but was then forced to conduct a follow-up get-together with the Twins’ brass — including owner Jim Pohlad — near his Southern California home after undergoing hip surgery.

“The common question is if I thought I really thought I had a chance because of Paul Molitor’s reputation and connection with the organization. Yeah, because I was told I did and I believed the front office and legitimately I felt like it was a very fair race that I just lost,” Lovullo explained.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, torey lovullo,

Rusney Castillo ‘down for some time’ with left oblique strain

03.04.15 at 1:22 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo will be out at least a week with a strained left oblique. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox were reminded Wednesday why it’s good to have too many instead of too few.

With the talk of excess outfielders circulating through camp for the past couple of weeks, the numbers were cut into for the foreseeable future thanks to Rusney Castillo’s strained left oblique.

Castillo hurt his oblique during his third at-bat against Boston College Tuesday. After undergoing an MRI, it was determined the outfielder would be “down for some time,” according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Both Farrell and Castillo confirmed the 27-year-old had never previously experienced such an injury. The manager surmised the ailment would keep his outfielder out for more than a week.

“It wasn’t any sort of different kind of swing or odd swing, it was just a pitch that was a little in,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “I took a regular swing on it and felt something there right in the oblique area. That’s what it was.”

When asked if he believed the injury would negatively impact his chance to break spring training with the big league team, Castillo said, “I don’t think it impacts me in a negative way. We’re doing everything we can to recuperate as quickly as possible. I guess we’ll see how it goes.”

Castillo noted that there is no timetable for his return, and that the injury felt better than it did Tuesday night.

“It’s part of the process, I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating,” he noted. “I don’t know exactly how much time I’m going to be out yet but it’s all part of it.”

Farrell said Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley will continue to rotate in center field. The manager also passed on that Shane Victorino was scheduled to play in the Red Sox‘ Thursday night game against the Twins, but will be in the lineup for the following two games.

Read More: 2015 spring training, John Farrell, Rusney Castillo,

Reports: Jerry Remy’s Fenway Park restaurant closes for good

03.04.15 at 11:50 am ET
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According to multiple reports, Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill, located just outside Fenway Park, has been closed.

The franchise’s other three locations — Logan Airport, the Seaport District and Fall River (Remy’s hometown) — remain open.

The blog Boston Restaurant Talk reports that the establishment is in bankruptcy and the landlord — the Red Sox — will not renew the lease due to the financial problems.

The restaurant, at 1265 Boylston Street, opened in March 2010. Its roof deck overlooks Fenway Park’s right-field wall.

Remy came under heavy criticism last year when a Boston Globe report detailed how he had enabled and protected his son Jared, who had a long history of violence toward women before pleading guilty to first-degree murder last year in the 2013 killing of his live-in girlfriend.

Remy, who also has battled cancer, took some time away from his job as NESN Red Sox color commentator before returning to the booth.

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