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Observations from Bright House Field: Not good day for Red Sox starters

03.15.15 at 4:41 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — The day began with the media surrounding Blake Swihart in the visitors clubhouse at Bright House Field, asking questions that, for the most part, had something to do with the catcher being part of trade rumors involving the team the Red Sox would ultimately drop an 11-4 decision to Sunday afternoon, the Phillies.

(To read all of Swihart’s and Red Sox manager John Farrell‘s comments on the issue, click here.)

It ended with one of the Red Sox’ pitchers for the day, Justin Masterson ending his media briefing with a reference to all the attention.

“You guys talk about him getting traded to Philly?” Masterson said. “‘Is this a really big game for you? If you rake in spring today, you will be a Philadelphia Phillie!'” Congratulations!'”

Swihart did his part, raising his spring average to .538 with a 2-for-3 day.

The same couldn’t be said for the two members of the Red Sox’ starting rotation making appearances against Philadelphia, Masterson and Wade Miley. The two combined to allow 10 runs on 13 hits and five walks over 6 1/3 innings.

Masterson started the game and immediately had difficulty finding a proper arm slot, or proper velocity. It took the righty a full inning before touching 90 mph, ultimately maxing out at 91.

“I finally got to the arm slot,” he said. “We were just a little off trying to find it out there. Going a whole year of not really doing the right stuff, it’s going to be this time in spring trying to make sure we get back to where we need to be. Once it got into that slot, I felt so much more power, so I was able to get to it. That’€™s where I was overthrowing in the last inning as I got tired, but I wanted to feel that same intensity. The arm strength is there, and it’s progressing well. I’m just flying open a little bit, a little bit tired, but still kept the same velocity per se throughout the last two innings, which to me says a lot of good things about the arm strength getting there and building back up.”

Masterson was particularly worn out by the Phillies lefty hitters, allowing a pair of home runs. He ultimately finished his 3 1/3-inning outing by giving up six runs on seven hits.

The starter came away with a healthy dose of optimism.

“It’s not even a comparison,” Masterson said when asked to contrast how he feels now compared to a year ago. “My body feels tremendously great. My shoulder feels good; I wouldn’€™t say tremendously great but good and it’s getting to the great spot. That’€™s what’s so good, we’re building up the arm strength. Those are the things that get me. Today we had the effort level for the last two but we were a little off. As we continue to get better, that will come. I’m really really excited especially compared to last year.

“For me, I’m breaking some habits that maybe began all because of last year with the things I was dealing with, with a few injuries. So now breaking those now and really finding it again. Now that we’re able to find it and get back to it, especially within a game, that’€™s monumental. In case you maybe get to a point where I’m not feeling it in warmups, now another checkpoint. This is how we get to it, this is what we need to do, and carry that into playing catch and my bullpen to really feel it, so that when I get into a game it just becomes natural. It’s reteaching the muscles. Muscle memory ‘€” that’€™s what the game is.”

Miley didn’t fare much better, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks over his three innings.

“It’s a big step back,” the lefty said. “Wasn’t very efficient at all. Didn’t locate. Didn’t make pitches. Put myself into some very bad situations. 2-0, especially with lefties. Didn’t do a very good job against the lefties. One of those ones you just want to forget about. A couple steps backwards right there, but it’s all right. It’s spring training. Better now than later. Move on and go from there.”

– One of the few highlights for the Red Sox was Daniel Nava’s two-run homer in the first inning, coming off of Philadelphia starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The Cuban righty pitcher, who the Red Sox had some interest in when he was a free agent, lived in the mid 90’s while going 3 1/3 innings. He is vying for the fifth spot in the Phillies’ rotation.

Catching up with last year’s big spring training story, Grady Sizemore

03.15.15 at 4:13 pm ET
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CLEARWATER, Fla. — The excitement of spring training is a little different this time around for Grady Sizemore.

The outfielder who showed the Red Sox enough last spring to get an Opening Day start despite not having played major league ball for two years, is now with the Phillies, vying for a job in left field.

A year ago, Sizemore was a topic of conversation every day. Now he sits almost anonymously in the Philadelphia clubhouse, just trying to build off a 2014 campaign which saw the 32-year-old play in a combined 112 games with the Sox and Phils.

“There were moments where you feel like it’s coming back and then there were moments where you kind of feel a little lost,” said Sizemore, who hit .216 with a .612 OPS in 52 games with the Red Sox before being released. “I think it’s more of being away from the game for so long. There were some bright spots and some down spots. Just being able to find that comfort zone where you’re not going through those long stretches where you feel you don’t have it.”

Sizemore has struggled thus far in camp, with his average dipping .105 after going 0-for-2 in the Phillies’ 11-4 win over the Red Sox. It’s not exactly the display he put on while sending a buzz through Sox camp a year ago.

“Pretty similar,” said Sizemore when asked how he felt compared to this time last year. “Obviously I feel like made some gains physically. It’s just nice to have some time underneath you, building more reps. I’m just building off of that and moving forward.

“I felt like I was as in a good a position I could have got in, having not had a spring training in so many years. It was just more a matter of getting the reps. It was one of those things of just needing the reps and time.”

After being cut loose by the Red Sox, Sizemore did bounce back somewhat when joining the Phillies. The lefty hitter played in 60 games with Philadelphia, hitting .253 with a .701 OPS.

Yet, even after working his way back with the help of Red Sox physical therapist Dan Dyrek, and getting a full big league season under his belt, Sizemore hasn’t locked into where he needs to be to feel fully confident.

“It’s just a matter of seeing the reps, seeing pitches and getting the work in. I still don’t really know where the norm is for me physically,” said Sizemore, who dropped a line-drive while trying to make a sliding catch in the fourth inning. “You’re just trying to continue to get gains and improve from the baseball side and the physical side. I still feel like I’m working through some things and there’s still improvements to be made, but I just don’t know where that ceiling is.”

No matter what transpires this spring or during the regular seaosn, Sizemore points out he will ever have a soft spot in his heart for the Red Sox organization.

“I just loved it there,” he said. “There’s nothing like playing at Fenway, playing for that team, that organization. I definitely wish I could have been more consistent and stayed there and had more success there. But I’m happy to be here now. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. A great organization to be a part of. I’m grateful for my time there, and now I’m just looking forward.”

John Farrell on playing Blake Swihart vs. Phillies: ‘This isn’t a showcase’

03.15.15 at 1:45 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

It was hard not to see the obvious storyline when catcher Blake Swihart made the trip to Clearwater this morning for a game against the Phillies — he’s being dangled in person as trade bait for left-hander Cole Hamels.

“I think it’s funny, just like when you guys came over you started laughing,” Swihart told reporters. “I think people are reading into it. It’s going to be fun.”

But Red Sox manager John Farrell wanted to make one thing clear.

“This isn’t a showcase,” Farrell said.

The manager explained Swihart’s presence in decidedly uncontroversial terms.

“So, Blake’s here because of the rotation that we’ve been looking for with position players the last 4-5 days,” he said. “Get them a couple of games back-to-back, and his second day falls on today.”

That will do little to quell the conspiracy theorists who want to see the team trade a package of prospects including Swihart for Hamels, the three-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP who would immediately give the Red Sox a proven ace atop their rotation.

“The most I got yesterday was a tweet saying, ‘Hmmm, Blake Swihart is playing against the Phillies,'” Swihart said.  “That was the craziest thing.”

The only problem with viewing Swihart as trade bait is that it ignores the fact the Red Sox have little inclination in dealing the switch hitter, who might be the best catching prospect in baseball. He has made real strides this camp, Farrell said.

“He’s more comfortable with the environment, which you would expect,” Farrell said. “A guy in his second year is a little bit more of a known on his behalf, what he’s coming into. He spent some time in Triple A last year, so he knows in his own mind that his opportunity is approaching. When that happens, obviously, it remains to be seen. I just think he’s gaining confidence, he’s gaining strength. Last year’s experience at the Triple A level was important with him in dealing with some veteran pitchers and getting some more insight into game-calling. There’s always going to be maintenance. The receiving side of things is a work in progress that’s getting better by the day. He’s a bright-looking young player, but there’s still work to be done.”

Swihart takes the trade talk in stride.

“It’s kind of hard not to hear it,” he said. “At the end of the day, though, I play for the Red Sox and I want to play for the Red Sox. I like being here and I like playing here. It’s an honor that other teams think highly of you. Ultimately, I want to be here and to play for this team. Anything I can do to help this team is what I want to do.”


Observations from JetBlue Park: Koji Uehara, Matt Barnes stumble; Mike Napoli has dreamy day

03.14.15 at 5:17 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Fort Myers, Fla. — Saturday did nothing to make anybody feel the Red Sox bullpen’s potentially murky picture was any clearer.

The two Red Sox pitchers to surrender runs in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates at JetBlue Park, Koji Uehara and Matt Barnes, are both considered intriguing pieces of the relief pitching puzzle.

For Uehara, his third outing of the spring was perhaps his least impressive, allowing one run on three hits over his inning. The Red Sox closer escaped further damage in the fourth inning thanks to a nifty double play in which Jackie Bradley’s throw home was intercepted by catcher Blake Swihart, who doubled off Pittsburgh’s Tony Sanchez at third.

The problem was that not only did Uehara uncharacteristically pitch without great command, but doubles by Starling Marte and Pedro Florimon, along with a Sanchez single, weren’t exactly cheapies.

After the game, both Red Sox manager John Farrell offered his explanation for the outing.

“He’€™s using his cutter a little bit probably in some counts that might not otherwise be, particularly where he’€™s finishing a hitter off where he’€™s gone to his split so often. No concern there,” Farrell said. “He’€™s just using a third pitch a little bit more here in camp.”

Uehara was more succinct.

“Yes, of course,” the closer said when asked if he is trying to refine things. “My control, everything, yeah.”

Just to note: Uehara didn’t allow a run in his previous 15 2/3 spring training innings with the Red Sox over 2013-14, giving up a total of four hits while striking out 19 and walking three. Thus far, the reliever has allowed two runs on seven hits over three frames.

As for Barnes, who continues to be stretched out as a starter with the organization not closing the door on starting the season in the majors as a reliever, he fell victim to some uneven fastball location.

Still flashing a 97 mph fastball and effective curve, Barnes almost got out of a second and third jam during his second inning of work, but couldn’t quite translate a slow roller just past the mound into an inning-ending double play. Instead the Pirates scored the go-ahead run, leading to the righty not limiting the damage and giving up a two-run single on a mislocated first-pitch fastball.

Barnes’ day included two innings in which he surrendered

“The leadoff walk [in the eighth inning] has been a little uncharacteristic of the way he’€™s thrown the ball in the spring,” Farrell said. “Even though it’€™s been three appearances, he’€™s got strikeout ability. Whether or not he comes in in the middle of an inning at some point in the future to creating his own traffic on the basepaths, there’€™s the ability to record a strikeout. I just thought there was not the same, he missed with four straight fastballs, which, as we said, has been a little bit uncharacteristic of the spring.”

For now, Barnes remains on target to begin 2015 as a starter.

“Well, I’m going through the normal five-day routine, going through it as a starter, going through pregame routine as a starter,” he said. “It’s a little different having to sit for six innings and then go out there and try to throw three as a starter. But at the end of the day, it’s pitching, whether it’s the first and the second or the seventh and the eighth. Just got to go out there and lock in and pitch when I’m told to pitch.”

Mike Napoli continued to turn in a strong spring, this time highlighting the Red Sox’ offensive output by taking Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole deep twice over the left field wall.

“I mean, I was banged up last year, too,” said Napoli, who is now hitting .467 in Grapefruit League action. “I was dealing with my toe, my finger, I had some back issues going on, I had a lot of things going on last year. Overall, I’m healthy right now. I’ve got energy. I’m sleeping at night. It’s totally different. The way I feel now to how I did before is good for me.”

For an idea of some of the dreams Napoli have been having thanks to his newfound sleep patterns, click here.

– Less than 24 hours after making a great diving catch against the Yankees on the first batter of the game, Mookie Betts did it again. This time the Red Sox’ center fielder robbed Jeff Decker with a diving catch in right-center.

“It’€™s hard to say because he made such improvement each of the three times he came to us last year, so you’€™re almost anticipating further growth. We’€™re seeing it,” Farrell said. “He loves to ask questions. He’€™s always trying to learn. I think as he’€™s gotten more comfortable in center field, the breaks and the reads are much more direct and efficient.”

Prior to the game, Betts talked about the difference between trying the outfield last season compared to this time around.

“Yes, it does,” said Betts when asked if it feels like a long time since he was an infielder, which was the case at this time last season. “It feels like I’€™ve been out there for a long time. Just because of how much work I put in, even in the offseason where I was long-tossing and having people hit me fly balls. It seems like I’€™ve been out there for a long time. At this point last year I was an infielder and I’€™m happy where I’€™m at now. I know I still have a long way to go, but I’€™m happy with the strides I’€™ve made to get where I’€™m at. I know I have a long way to go and there’€™s a lot more to learn.”

– Red Sox starter Henry Owens got out of a jam in his third inning, stranding two runners thanks to a strike out of Gregory Polanco. Owens’ most effective pitch, by far, during his three-inning outing was the lefty’s curveball.

“More consistent shape and a little bit later action than a year ago,” Farrell said of Owens’ curve. “We don’€™t see him during the season, or haven’€™t yet. You get comparisons a year apart. A guy that’€™s more physical, gaining some strength, which is gaining some tightness to the breaking ball. We’€™ve seen it not only today with Polanco but in his previous outings as well. He’€™s on such a good developmental path. It’€™s kind of exciting to watch a young guy starting to come into his own.”

– On the injury front, Rusney Castillo (oblique) is slated to take live batting practice in the coming days, while Robbie Ross’ next outing will be pushed back a few days to recover from some knee soreness.

– The Red Sox will start Wade Miley in Clearwater Sunday against the Phillies. (A game that can be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network starting at 1 p.m.) Following Miley will be Justin Masterson, along with Brandon Workman, Noe Ramirez, Heath Hembree, Tommy Layne, Dana Eveland and Dalier Hinojosa.

Going for the Phillies will be Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who the Red Sox had their eyes on before he signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Philadelphia. Jonathan Papelbon is also expected to pitch.

Good news for Red Sox: Mike Napoli is having some really funky dreams

03.13.15 at 4:22 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The benefits of Mike Napoli‘s sleep apnea surgery haven’t been hard to find.

He has said his workouts have been better. And the first baseman looks solid both at the plate and in the field thus far in spring training. Prior to getting the start Friday night against the Yankees, Napoli was 5-for-12 (.417).

But we now know perhaps one of the best side effects from Napoli actually getting uninterrupted sleep: his dreams.

“I hadn’t dreamt for a long time,” he said. “It was a real long time.”

And since he hadn’t dreamt for ages, it shouldn’t have come as a shock how vividly he remembered that first dream shortly after surgery.

“I was roller skating with old school roller skates, headband, jean shorts, tank-top, old school earphones with the cassette player, skating through a city,” Napoli said. “Like dancing skating. Through cars, busses going by. I went by the Ritz and an NBA basketball team was checking into the hotel. Then all of a sudden I ended up being in a mall, skating around the mall, just dancing around and going around and around the mall.

“I woke up and told my friend Blacky, ‘You won’t believe this dream I just had.’ He said, ‘You had a dream?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it was the [expletive].’ I don’t know why I remembered it, but I did. I had to tell somebody. I don’t know why was roller skating seeing an NBA basketball team.”

The dreams, and the recollection of those instances, didn’t stop with that first one, either.

“I had another dream that I was a hockey player, me and my friend, Mathis,” he explained. “We were becoming hockey players and we were in a Sam’s Club and that’s where we all stayed and lived in all one big area. There was nothing but 1,000 boxes of cereal and that’s all we ate was cereal.”

As Napoli has rediscovered, it’s good to dream every now and again.

– Here is the Red Sox‘ lineup for their Friday night tilt against the Yankees: Mookie Betts CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Hanley Ramirez LF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Mike Napoli 1B, Daniel Nava RF, Xander Bogaerts SS, Ryan Hanigan, C.

Rick Porcello will get the start, with Brian Johnson, Dana Eveland, Edward Mujica, Zeke Spruill and Junichi Tazawa slated to follow.

Pitching for the Yankees will be Adam Warren, with the only recognizable names in their starting lineup being Chris Young (CF), Garrett Jones (1B) and Brian McCann (DH).

Takeaways from Yoan Moncada’s introductory press conference

03.13.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada answers a question at his Friday press conference. (WEEI.com)

Yoan Moncada answers a question at his Friday press conference. (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS Fla. — Yoan Moncada — the 19-year-old who just put pen to paper Thursday, agreeing to a minor-league deal with the Red Sox that will pay him a signing bonus of $31.5 million — was hard to miss when walking into the JetBlue Park interview room.

Wearing a back suit with an orange shirt, Moncada’s arms put the jacket’s fabric to the test while joining Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and international scouting director Eddie Romero at the head table.

The journey had been a surreal one for all involved, most of which were in attendance. (To read more about how Moncada landed with the Red Sox, click here.)

Along the side wall sat Moncada’s 27-year-old mentor, and new Red Sox outfielder, Carlos Mesa, who was joined by his wife and young daughter. Next to him was Jo Hastings, the Cuban-born wife of David Hastings, who had served as the player’s representatives throughout the process. And finally was an unidentified final member of the tight-knit group, a friend of the Hastings who works for the St. Petersburg, Fla. police department and helped with security for the young player.

And then there was Hastings, who sat among the media. Through nine months of life-altering instances, this was the punctuation. The Tampa-area CPA found him smack dab in the middle of a very well attended press conference.

While the questions directed at Moncada were translated by Romero, it was easy to identify which query meant the most to the infielder.

Question: Has Hastings been like a father to you since arriving?

Answer: “Ever since I was able to come over here, he’s been tremendous with me. He’s been sincere and respectful, and he’s really given me the care that a father would ‘€” just like my father back in Cuba. I’m just lucky to have found him.” Moncada cut his answer short, having to pause while collecting his emotions.

There was, of course, plenty of other notable items emanating from the press conference:

– Moncada is slated to play second base this season, starting in Fort Myers and then eventually advancing to Single A Greenville.

“Right now the position I feel most comfortable at is second base, because that’€™s where I have the most experience,” Moncada said. “I’ve also been exposed to third base, shortstop and center field. I’m going out as a second baseman right now, and if I need to work on those other positions, I will.”

“As we all know, until a player is ready to help us win games at the major league level, the question of position is sort of less relevant,” Cherington noted. “We know Yoan has played second base than anywhere else, so we’re going to allow him to play that position. That’s the position he’s comfortable in. Let’s let him go play for a while and see where that takes us. I will say one of the many things we appreciate about him and a big part of the scouting process, is recognizing his athletic ability and his defensive skills would allow him to play any number of positions on the field if he had to if that’s what the major league team needed down the road to help win games. We’ll get there when we get there. For right now, we just want to help him get started with his career. He’ll play second base and we assume he’ll be out at an affiliate at some point early in the season. We want to give him the appropriate time here in Fort Myers to get ready first.”

– The switch-hitter said he hoped for quick advancement through the minor league system, but was also realistic about the process.

“My goal is to see if I can make it to the big leagues in a year, but I know not having played for so long, it’s understandable that it might take more time than that,” said Moncada, who hasn’t played competitively since the end of Dec., 2013.

– Moncada’s familiarity with the Red Sox was limited because of the access to information in Cuba, but managed to get some sort of a picture thanks to conversations with Luis Tiant.

“I didn’t know much going in because obviously in Cuba we have limited resources to access major league content,” he said. “I really didn’t know much about any team, to be honest. Once I got here I appreciate the attention the Red Sox gave us at the private workout. I want to thank Luis directly because he sat down with us and explained to us what playing in Boston was like for a player with a Cuban background. I appreciate his support with all of this. Now it’s just about being with the Red Sox and trying to help this team win a World Series in the future.”

When asked about his favorite players, he also mentioned all Red Sox.

“As for players, Hanley Ramirez is somebody I’ve gotten to meet in the past couple days that I really look up to. [Dustin] Pedroia,” Moncada said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to meet David Ortiz yet. I hope I do soon. [Shane] Victorino, Pablo Sandoval ‘€” those are guys I’ve seen the past couple days and definitely guys I look up to.”

– Moncada also explained his recollections of going through the workouts leading up to his decision to sign with the Red Sox. The infielder said he held private workouts for about 11 teams.

“Especially at the initial showcase, where I’d never done anything where I was being presented amongst 30 teams,” Moncada said. “Obviously when I went out especially to start with the running, I was feeling some pressure, I was feeling nervous. As the workout went on, as I got into my defensive drills, I started feeling a lot more comfortable. That’€™s definitely something I’m not going to forget, seeing everybody that was there and going through that kind of showcase.”

Read More: 2015 Red Sox spring training,

It’s official — Red Sox announce signing of Yoan Moncada

03.12.15 at 9:01 pm ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

Let the Yoan Moncada Era begin.

The Red Sox on Thursday announced the signing of the 19-year-old Cuban shortstop to a deal with a record $31.5 million signing bonus. One of the most highly sought international free agents, Moncada agreed to a deal on Feb. 23, but the team conducted a lengthy physical before signing him.

The 6-1, 220-pound switch hitter has power from both sides and impressive speed and has likely already outgrown shortstop. He could be shifted to third base or the outfield, and will report to minor-league camp this week to begin his professional career.

Though Moncada is seemingly blocked at second base (Dustin Pedroia), third (Pablo Sandoval), short (Xander Bogaerts) and outfield (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts), the Red Sox aren’t worried about where he’ll play. The signing is about adding another top-flight young talent to a future core that includes Bogaerts, Betts, catcher Blake Swihart, and lefty Henry Owens, all 22.

“That’s the future, you know?” Bogaerts noted. “We’re not just thinking about now. We’re kind of thinking about the future as well. He’s a great addition to the team. I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve heard a lot about him. He’s a great talent from Cuba. I mean, he has to be good to give him that amount of money, you know?”

To secure Moncada’s rights, the Red Sox had to pay Major League Baseball the equivalent of his bonus ($31.5 million) as a penalty for draining their international spending pool, and they’ll be barred from spending more than $300,000 on an international free agent until 2017.

They considered that a small price to pay for one of the most intriguing prospects to come out of Cuba in years. Moncada hit .277 with four homers and a .768 OPS as a teenager over two seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. His impressive physique led agent David Hastings to compare him to an action figure.

“He’s massive,” Hastings said. “This kid is the real deal.”

To win the bidding for Moncada, the Red Sox had to outlast the deep-pocketed Yankees and Dodgers, as well as the darkhorse Padres. Each team submitted opening bids in the $25 million range, but the Red Sox won out by upping their offer in round two.

The Red Sox will hold a press conference in Fort Myers introducing Moncada Friday at 11 a.m.

Observations from McKechnie Field: David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval home run race; Importance of Alexi Ogando

03.12.15 at 4:24 pm ET
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BRADENTON, Fla. — History was made Thursday.

No, it wasn’t David Ortiz hitting a home run. With his three-run shot in the Red Sox‘ seventh straight spring training win — a 5-1 victory over the Pirates — the DH now has 15 official Grapefruit League homers. And while Pablo Sandoval’s blast two batters later was his first homer in a Sox uniform, he actually has two more spring round-trippers than Ortiz.

The reason to save the ticket stubs? The crowd of 8,445 was the third-largest in the 92-year history of McKechnie Field. So there you go …

In terms of the Red Sox‘ perspective, however, the reminder regarding Ortiz’ and Sandoval’s presence was most likely the most notable takeaway.

“Those guys are so talented, man,” said Ortiz, pointing to around the clubhouse. “And the thing is, if you don’€™t play with them, you won’€™t get to know how much they feel for the game. We play in a spring training game, these guys, you ought to hear them talk during the game. This guy [Hanley Ramirez], Panda, then they get caught into the Pedroia bull[crap] with [Mike Napoli]. All the screaming, I’€™m going crazy because I’€™m speechless in spring training. I can’€™t be talking too much, I waste my energy. I get caught into all that. It’€™s definitely going to be fun with those guys through the season, just going back and forth, challenging each other and it felt good to do well, to get it done.”

Clay Buchholz finished his three-inning outing without incident, allowing one first-inning run. The righty was able to escape a potential sticky situation in the initial frame, getting Pedro Alvarez to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Pirates’ first-inning run was unearned, with Buchholz having been charged with a throwing error after attempting to pick off Sean Rodriguez.

“It’€™s definitely good to have to go through it,” said Buchholz of dealing with runners on base, having allowed four hits and a walk to go along with a pair of strike outs. “First inning, minimizing it to one run, getting out of that rather than giving up two or three. It’€™s something that comes with repetition of it and feeling comfortable with it. For the most part it was a good day.”

– Alexi Ogando turned in his second straight positive outing, pitching a clean four inning. He then got some high praise from his new manager.

“It’s been very good,” Farrell said of the righty. “If we get him to previous levels, or close to previous levels, in terms of arm strengths, production and get him through spring training healthy, it could be one of the keys to our camp. What he means to our bullpen? The ability to attack quality right-handed hitters that our division is going to present. He has a chance to make a huge impact on this team.”

Highly-touted Eduardo Rodriguez ran into some trouble in the third inning of his outing, being forced to leave with a pair of runners on before Keith Couch came on to induce an inning-ending ground out.

Other than the pair of hits in the seventh, Rodriguez impressed, striking out four and not walking a batter.

“The thing that stood out for me was on a day he didn’t have his best stuff or best command, he continued to pitch,” Farrell said. “He didn’t let men on base speed things up on him. He showed good poise. He used all three pitches to get key outs and strikeouts with men in scoring position. I was impressed with the poise.”

Hanley Ramirez got two more chances in left field, one coming when he camped under an Andrew McCutchen fly ball that resulted in a sacrifice fly.

“I’ve been working a lot. I like it,” Ramirez said of his new position. “I feel comfortable in left field. That’s the main thing.

“I just go out there and play the game and catch fly balls. I don’t think about anything. I don’t think. Nothing. Effortless. I don’t like to think about anything. I’m just ready for it if they hit me fly balls, and that’s it.”

“His athleticism is going to allow him to play that position fine,” Farrell said. “More innings, more games, we have no question about his ability out there.”

Time to revisit Red Sox outfield competition

03.12.15 at 12:40 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

BRADENTON, Fla. — It was two years ago Wednesday that the conversation really amped up. That’s when Jackie Bradley launched the first pitch of a game against Miami’s Kevin Slowey over the left-center field fence, kicking off a three-hit day for the then-22-year-old.

“It doesn’t seem too long ago,” said Bradley, who ended up hitting .419 with a 1.120 OPS that 2013 spring training, going on to also hit a home run off of Cliff Lee. “I can’t be too long ago if I remember it that well.”

It was why Mookie Betts’ three-hit performance exactly two years later offered the parallel when analyzing competition for the Red Sox‘ starting outfield spot for Opening Day.

It’s not apples to apples since Betts has 52 major league games under his belt, where Bradley hadn’t touched the majors.

So to suggest that since Betts (who is hitting .400 thus far this spring) is willing his way to the top of the Red Sox‘ Opening day with his spring training performance, he will suffer the same early-season fate as Bradley’s 2013 probably isn’t fair.

“We view spring training as having to being taken in its proper context,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Now you’re talking about two completely different individuals and how they deal with the challenges and how they adapt. Now you’re getting into personal profile, not just a broad brush.”

But, much like it did thanks in part to that March 11 day in 2013, it seems like the Opening Day conversation is starting to take shape.

Besides Betts’ performance, another aspect of the current equation that is helping define the competition is Rusney Castillo’s health. While the outfielder is progressing from his left oblique injury, each passing day without Castillo in game action makes it more and more difficult to envision him on the Opening Day roster.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, mookie betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino

Observations from Steinbrenner Field: Alex Rodriguez can still hit home runs; Joe Kelly is back in Cy Young race

03.11.15 at 5:34 pm ET
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Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

TAMPA — Chances are the biggest takeaway from the Red Sox‘ 10-6 win over the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field Wednesday won’t be the fact that John Farrell‘s team has now won six straight. And few will probably take note that the Sox finished their day with 18 hits.

No, the highlights will likely lead with one particular fourth-inning home run.

For the first time since Sept. 20, 2013, Alex Rodriguez hit a ball over the fence in a real, live big league baseball game. Granted, this was simply his team’s ninth Grapefruit League game of spring training, but it was … well … it was, A-Rod.

Unfortunately for Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman, he will be part of that highlight reel.

“That 3-1 count to A-Rod caught a little bit more of the plate than I wanted to with a fastball,” Workman said. “On 3-1 he was looking fastball away and I gave him a fastball out over the plate, he put a good swing on the ball and obviously he’s a really good hitter. On 3-1 he got in a count where he could look for something, got it and put a good swing on it.

“It’s my second time facing big league hitters this spring, 3-1 to my first batter of the day, fastball away and he swung it like he knew it was coming. I didn’t see anything wrong with him up there.”

— Joe Kelly wouldn’t buy the fact he was clocked at 99 mph Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s probably false. My arm doesn’t feel that good,” the Red Sox starter said. “It’s definitely running a little hot. If they told me that at the end of the season last season when my arm was feeling good, I’d believe that. But there’s no way.”

Kelly may have not bought into the reported radar gun readings, but he was feeling pretty good about the outcome after making his second Grapefruit League outing of spring training. The righty allowed two runs over his three innings, but felt like his command and stuff was night and day compared to that last appearance, against the Twins.

“Overall, better control, better command within the strike zone,” said Farrell, comparing Wednesday to his start against the Twins in which virtually every ball put in play was hit hard. “I thought both curveball and changeup he threw effectively, with the exception of the two-strike curveball to Perala. Certainly a step in the right direction. I think more than anything the commanding the strike zone was improved over last time out.”

“It was a lot better,” said Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. “He was throwing the four-seamer better, and he hit his spots with a good changeup. He was consistent with all of his pitches. The command was much better.”

— Travis Shaw continued to be an intriguing player, particularly considering his skill-set: power-hitting corner man.

Shaw opened eyes once again Wednesday by taking former Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller over the right field fence on a first-pitch fastball. It was an encouraging sign for the left-handed hitting Shaw (who also doubled), having hit just .189 against lefties in 2014.

“Impressive,” said Farrell of the 24-year-old Shaw, who hit 21 home runs between Double- and Triple-A in ’14. “He had a little bit of a breakout year last year. I think it was more of him knowing himself as a hitter. Seeing him year over year, he’€™s much more comfortable in this environment. Against two very good arms, he gets a first-pitch fastball against Miller and then the 1-0 fastball where he’€™s looking for a specific spot away and puts a very good swing on a pitch. He’€™s swinging the bat good.”

Others standing out offensively for the Red Sox were Mookie Betts (3 hits), Luke Monz (HR, 2 hits), and Jemile Weeks (HR).

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Alex Rodriguez, Brandon Workman, Joe Kelly
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