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Why playing third base in the World Baseball Classic might have made Xander Bogaerts a better shortstop

03.23.17 at 9:25 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the last four weeks, Xander Bogaerts’ communication with his Red Sox teammates and coaches consisted of sporadic text messages to Brock Holt, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Other than that, the Red Sox and Bogaerts’ relationship was limited to relying to the clubhouse televisions to watch the shortstop play third base halfway around the world for Netherlands during their impressive World Baseball Classic run.

“I think it was a little bit better, because the first time I was so nervous,” said Bogaerts, referencing his previous WBC experience, in 2013.

Now, after going 5-for-22 (.227), he’s back. And, according to Bogaerts, he has never been better prepared to start a season that is just 10 days away.

“I feel pretty good, to be honest,” he said. “I feel I’m a bit more ahead of where I normally am. Probably because those games, we had to go all out and be on point with them. I felt really good out there. Just going back to shortstop now is much better.”

Bogaerts did work at shortstop while with the Netherlands, taking grounders at the position before manning third for Hensley Meulens team.

Ironically, in those days he didn’t play his primary position, Bogaerts might have actually found a launching point to become a better shortstop. Lessons learned by being around the likes of Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorious, largely considered two of the best defensive shortstops in the game, evidently left quite an impression.

“I was practicing with Simmons and Didi. They are gifted guys and they can learn you a lot,” Bogaerts said. “For me, I didn’t play short, but in my mind I definitely did.”

Bogaerts is in the Red Sox’ lineup Thursday against the Pirates, hitting sixth.

It’s been three weeks, so what should we make of David Price’s situation?

03.22.17 at 10:44 am ET
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David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twenty-one days ago, the first MRI was taken on David Price’s left elbow. It wasn’t too long after that it was determined that a second opinion would be needed.

Two days later, Price and the Red Sox were celebrating the good news: no surgery, no PRP injection and just 7-10 days of rest before potentially launching the road back to pitching again.

But here we sit here. No games. No bullpen sessions. No long toss. Only some throwing into a net.

So, what should we make of where Price is at?

The pitcher offered this explanation to WEEI.com when asked about the situation.

“It’s making sure whenever I come back, it’s to stay back, not to be back,” Price said. “I know that some people can’t understand that.”

The Red Sox are still proclaiming that there is nothing to see. He went through another check-up Tuesday and the plan remains the same.

“Strength gains have been had but we’re going to continue to stay in the strengthening phase of this,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’re continuing to get his arm moving in the cage, in the workout room. But as far as initiating a full-blown throwing program, we’re not at that point yet. We’re getting closer. That’ll be happening ideally in the coming days.”

Farrell then added, “You go into these kind of open-ended. You’re not really sure what specific day it’s going to take place. You don’t really attach yourself to a calendar. You’ve got to listen to the pitchers situation, how his body is responding and what the objective tests are telling us. He’s getting closer to getting a ball back in his hand.”

The way this is unfolding, there is a very real chance we don’t see Price pitch in April. And as long as there continues to be no news of an injection, or change of course, that would be OK.

The thinking is that as much as Price might want to pitch, this is about getting a guy who has thrown more pitches than anybody in baseball over the past three years to a good place come the final two months. Thanks to the Red Sox’ rotation, they seemingly have that luxury.

It’s not what people want to hear, but in this case it has become a necessity.

One American League manager recently surmised that Price’s postseason struggles might be, in part, due to the tractor pull that is getting through the season. It might not be the be-all, end-all when it comes to the postseason narrative, but it does make some sense.

There is nothing wrong with Price not pitching 200 innings. There is everything wrong with not being able to lean on your $30 million-a-year pitcher when it counts the most. And the guess here is that the Red Sox have swerved off onto that road when dealing with this injury.

It was time to think differently about Price. And that’s why we’re still sitting here waiting.

“He has kept his arm moving,” Farrell said. “He’s incorporated some throwing, he’s incorporated some plyometrics with the arm and movement as you would throwing a baseball. He’s not static or stagnant in terms of the full range of motion used to throw a baseball.”

Chris Sale gives Yankees another dose of Chris Sale

03.21.17 at 9:51 pm ET
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Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

TAMPA — In case you didn’t know, Chris Sale owns the Yankees. And if you didn’t realize such a fact, the Red Sox starter offered another pretty good reminder Tuesday night.

In games that actually count, no pitcher since ERA has been an actual stat has had more success against the Yankees than Sale, totaling a 1.17 ERA in 10 career games (7 starts) vs. New York.

This one didn’t count, but offered the same kind of result.

Sale absolutely dominated the Yankees in making his fourth Grapefruit League start, striking out 10 in six innings. He did surrender a two-run homer in his final frame to Matt Holliday, but that hardly diminished the dominance the lefty showed in leading the Red Sox to 4-2 win at Steinbrenner Field.

“It felt good,” Sale said. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. You guys saw, just felt good, got a good rhythm going, just kind of following Sandy’s lead. He knows these guys on the other end of the line extremely well, so just follow his game plan and see where it takes us.”

Not hurting matters was the opportunity for Sale to get a bit closer to pitching in a regular season environment, performing in front of biggest crowd of spring training, against a Yankees lineup that wasn’t far off from what he might be seeing in the regular season.

“Obviously anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York,” Sale said. “Even from the outside looking in, you can see it, you can sense the competitive drive on these teams and in this series. Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park, a night game, gives it more of a regular season feel. It’s nice, it’s what we’re here for, we’re here to get ready for the regular season. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular season game, the better off we’re going to be.”

Sale, who struck out multiple batters in each of his first four innings, figures to get two more spring training starts before being slotted in to the Red Sox’ April 5 tilt against Pittsburgh at Fenway Park.

“He was very good, he added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago when it was more fastball changeup,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His breaking ball to both sides of the plate, down underneath to some right-handed swings. And anytime he needed to, he’s got such good feel for the change-up to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive.”

Drew Pomeranz describes his bullpen session as ‘golden’

03.21.17 at 11:24 am ET
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Drew Pomeranz

Drew Pomeranz

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Could Drew Pomeranz actually be pitching for the Red Sox when the they take on the Tigers April 8? Judging by his reaction the last two days, he certainly thinks there’s a strong possibility.

Pomeranz has only pitched in two Grapefruit League games, having left his last one after two innings due to triceps soreness. But two days after the perceived setback, the lefty appears more optimistic than ever.

As he said he would Monday, Pomeranz executed his scheduled bullpen session Tuesday morning in preparation for his start against the Blue Jays Friday in Dunedin.

Appearing just before the clubhouse closed to the media, Pomeranz offered a thumbs-up when asked how the exercise went, followed by a succinct one-word analysis: “Golden,” he said.

Pomeranz has only pitched four total innings thus far in spring training, having been eased into action due to his elbow issue. But according to the starter, he is intending on ramping up to a four-inning outing Friday.

Even if Pomeranz is healthy, there is a strong chance he wouldn’t break camp with the team with John Farrell insinuating the club could go with eight relievers out of the gate, with the Red Sox not needing a starter until that Saturday game in Detroit.

If there are any more issues with Pomeranz’s health, the logical replacement for the start in the second game of the four-game set against the Tigers would be Kyle Kendrick.

Drew Pomeranz says he’s not planning on missing any time

03.20.17 at 3:58 pm ET
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Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Drew Pomeranz, it’s like nothing happened.

All the talk that surfaced after he exited Sunday’s game with triceps soreness — ranging from questions about his readiness for the regular season, to regrets regarding giving up Anderson Espinoza for the lefty last July — drifted off at least a bit after Pomeranz’s workout Monday.

Pomeranz said that he not only felt nothing in his triceps when throwing the day after his second Grapefruit League start, but was planning on pitching his regularly scheduled four innings Saturday without hesitation.

“I’m good,” he said. “Some mechanical thing yesterday. My arm was dragging behind me a little bit and putting pressure on a different part of my triceps more than normal. I don’t normally get there. But watching some video yesterday and this morning, I changed it and I feel fine.

“It was just mechanical. I had a feeling that’s what it was. But it was one of those thing that is hard to fix during a game. I watched a lot of video this morning, went out and played catch and was fine.”

If Pomeranz does remain on the schedule the Red Sox had planned for him (which was delayed due to the pitcher’s left elbow issues), that would necessitate him being ready for the Red Sox’ April 8 start in Detroit.

Following his adjustments Monday, he certainly feels that blueprint can still be a reality.

“I felt better today than I did yesterday pre-triceps thing. I felt fine. I feel nothing, or the same feeling from yesterday,” Pomeranz explained. “At this point I’m trying to get my mechanics down. I was trying to stay low with my arm. My arm was kind of dragging behind me a little bit. I just put a little more pressure on my triceps because my arm was behind me. It’s a bad position for your body to be in. I fixed it today and it felt great.”

Surpise, surprise: Red Sox might be breaking camp with just four starters

03.20.17 at 2:48 pm ET
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Robby Scott

Robby Scott

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So much has been made of the competition for the last spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen. The reality is that, for at least a few days, it might not make a difference.

Prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Orioles Monday at JetBlue Park, John Farrell insinuated there could be a scenario where the team breaks camp with eight relief pitchers and just four starters.

It makes some sense.

With the off day after the opener, the Red Sox wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 8.

Who that starter might be is dependent on Drew Pomeranz, whose status for the beginning of the schedule is in doubt due to his latest setback, triceps soreness. Pomeranz said Monday he is planning to not only make his next scheduled Grapefruit League start, Saturday, but would target throwing four innings.

There is a chance Kyle Kendrick (who pitched well again Monday) could replace Pomeranz that first time through. Still, come Opening Day, the roster will see some combination of Fernando Abad, Robby Scott, or Noe Ramirez.

Abad would seem to have the upper hand in making the team right now because, unlike the others, he is out of options.

Fernando Abad has no regrets about playing in World Baseball Classic, but should he?

03.20.17 at 9:24 am ET
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Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fernando Abad strolled through the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning wearing big smile on his face, along with his brand new t-shirt brandishing the Dominican Republic flag.

Abad was fresh off his stint with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, with his countrymen getting eliminated Saturday night.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I felt good to represent my country. I was happy to be part of it. [The Red Sox] know what I can do, so I wanted to go there and represent my country if I got the call.”

During WBC run, Abad pitched four times and didn’t give up a run, going 2 1/3 innings

So, what now?

Abad re-enters camp in a hot competition for the final spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen, competing against fellow lefty Robby Scott. Scott has pitched in seven Grapefruit League games, giving up no runs on six hits over six innings.

Abad still possesses the upper-hand, with Scott the only one of the two still with options.

It’s a decision that will figure to be made prior to 2 p.m. on March 29, which is the deadline for the Red Sox to cut ties with Abad and still have to pay him just 1/4 of his $2 million contract. Any commitments after that time and the team will be on the hook for the full salary.

“I do what I have to do when they give me the ball so I can be part of the team,” said Abad. “Like I felt with Minnesota last year, I feel like that now.”

Why three stars of Red Sox spring training probably won’t make team

03.20.17 at 12:42 am ET
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Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis and Kyle Kendrick.

They all have done their part. But come Opening Day, it probably won’t be good enough to avoid starting the season in the minor leagues.

Hernandez and Travis have the top two Grapefruit League OPS of any Red Sox hitters with 30 or more at-bats, while Kendrick has been the team’s best starting pitcher. But a combination of factors figure to have the trip on the outside looking in when it comes to cracking the 25-man roster.

Perhaps the entire camp’s best player to date, Hernandez, is hitting .405 with a 1.208 OPS in 37 at-bats. The 24-year-old has also shown an ability to handle second base, shortstop and third base without any issues, while also showing an impressive burst on the basepaths after losing some pounds over the offseason.

Even before notching two triples in the Red Sox’ loss to the Twins Sunday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell identified Hernandez as something more than just a utility guy.

“To think back when we acquired him for Felix Doubront, he’s grown in a number of ways,” Farrell said. “Physically he’s maturing. He’s getting bigger, he’s getting stronger. He did a great job in the offseason of getting himself in shape with morning workouts and playing at night in the Dominican Winter League. He’s an explosive player. he can run, he’s got tremendous bat speed. We have him in this competition for a utility job. There’s a lot of people … this is an everyday player if you really start to break him down and look at what he’s capable of doing. Yet he’s in a group that’s talented, that’s deep so finding his place, that’s ongoing.”

The reality at the moment is that unless something happens to somebody, Hernandez won’t beat out Josh Rutledge for the other utility infielder spot. Why? He hits left-handed.

With Brock Holt serving as the extra lefty hitter, Rutledge provides a better fit because he protects the Red Sox if Pablo Sandoval has any struggles hitting from the right side. Rutledge is also a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to make the 25-man roster or be sent back to Colorado.

Travis is hitting .333 with a 1.133 OPS and three home runs in his 33 at-bats. But with Hanley Ramirez still able to function as a hitter, and Mitch Moreland acquitting himself quite well at first base, the 23-year-old will have to wait his turn.

As for Kendrick, there might be a chance he gets a crack at the bigs. But, right now, it’s still a longshot.

If Drew Pomeranz’s sore triceps sets him back at all, that would seemingly open up a spot for Kendrick for that first time through the starting rotation. It should be noted, however, that the righty would need to be put on the 40-man roster. (That might be made possible from the Red Sox moving on from outfielder Bryce Brentz, who is out of options.)

If nothing else, Kendrick has offered the Red Sox a much-needed security blanket, allowing just three runs in his 18 Grapefruit League innings (1.50 ERA). A bonus for the Red Sox is that 32-year-old doesn’t have a opt-out in his deal until June.

Here is proof big league ballplayers hate spring training bus rides more than almost anything

03.20.17 at 12:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The goal was to offer a reprieve from the monotony that has been spring training. It worked.

The Red Sox engaged in a series of skill competitions Sunday morning, punctuated by an obstacle course. The group led by Rick Porcello, Chris Young, Pablo Sandoval, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland managed to claim victory, resulting in a raucous celebration.

But, besides the obvious spirit of competition, the impetus for what was the most spirited hour of spring training was the right for the winners to stay behind when the Red Sox travel up Interstate 75 to play the Yankees in Tampa Tuesday.

It was a reminder how much riding on a bus for 2 1/2 hours is one of these high-priced folks’ least favorite activities of the entire season.

How Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi is handling this unprecedented amount of attention

03.19.17 at 11:37 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few days ago, it was a Sports Illustrated photographer telling Andrew Benintendi to jump toward the camera, lay down on the grass, and simulate making all kind of catches.

“That,” Benintendi said with a smile, “was kind of weird.”

But all of this is a little weird for the 22-year-old. At least it should be.

Benintendi has been marching through his first big league camp with perhaps more potential distractions than any Red Sox rookie before him. Sports Illustrated was just one example of those trying to tug on the outfielder’s time. Sunday it was the MLB Network. There have been at least 10 other formal requests to go along with the daily wave of media heading to his locker.

“He’s been up there with [Chris] Sale, [Rick] Porcello, [David] Price, [Dustin] Pedroia. He’s been up there with those guys. Really only Mookie [Betts, Price and Sale have had more requests,” said Red Sox media relations director Kevin Gregg. “He’s been requested like he’s been a regular player for a long time now. This is by far the most I’ve seen for a rookie.”

Is it a concern for the man who is largely responsible for helping Benintendi direct this traffic?

“No, I don’t because I think he had a good routine in place and he frequently checks in with us about his time and what he needs to do,” Gregg added. “He’s done a good job of balancing it.”

Benintendi’s manager agrees.

“I think he’s handled it well,” John Farrell said. “He’s a very even-tempered personality and having seen that because of maybe some of the additional requests take away from his personal routine, creating frustration. He’s a pretty level-headed person.”

Watching Benintendi, it’s hard to remember this is his first spring training with the big leaguers. A year ago, he was on the back fields sitting with 40,000 few Twitter followers than he currently boasts. Now, he’s weaving in and out of the land mines that come with his current existence while hitting .308 with a .981 OPS in 39 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“I remember coming over and I didn’t know what to do,” said Benintendi of the two games he played in with the major league team last spring training (going 3-for-4). “It was like a ‘What do I do with my hands?’ kind of moment. Now it’s good.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Benintendi said he was not only expecting the out-the-ordinary attention, but feels like he was equipped to handle it. Life in the spotlight as one of college baseball’s best players, along with living with the label as the game’s No. 1 prospect, offered ample warning.

“Sometimes you might feel like a bad guy saying no all the time, but we have to get our stuff done,” he said. “But I’m a lot more prepared than I was a year ago.”

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