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Felix Doubront roughed up again, this time by Rays

03.23.14 at 4:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — This wasn’t how the Red Sox were hoping Felix Doubront would rebound from his worst spring training … with one even worse.

Doubront gave up eight runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking two in the Red Sox‘ 9-2 loss to the Rays Sunday afternoon at JetBlue Park. The outing follows up the lefty’s start in Tampa against the Yankees in which he gave up seven runs on 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings.

Prior to the pair of supbar appearances, Doubront had been sharp, not allowing a run in his first two starts.

Adding insult to injury, the Rays’ pitchers held the Red Sox hitless until Xander Bogaerts singled with one out in the seventh inning.

A scary moment occurred when Bogaerts’ fourth-inning line-drive appeared to deflect off Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore‘s jaw. He only needed two stitches in his lip.

Following up Doubront was Brandon Workman, who allowed one run on three hits over 3 2/3 innings. Burke Badenhop also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

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Morning notes: Dan Butler, Rich Hill, Dalier Hinojosa sent down; Jon Lester to stay away from Orioles

03.23.14 at 10:10 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox made a few roster moves Sunday morning in preparation of getting the regulars more playing time heading into the last week of spring training.

The Sox reassigned pitchers Rich Hill and Dalier Hinojosa to minor league camp, while catcher Dan Butler was optioned to Triple-A.

Hill has been impressive since arriving in camp after the death of his newborn son, not allowing a run in any of his three outings. The lefty does have an opt-out May 15.

“I thought he did a great job of somewhat catching up to speed under the difficult circumstances he came into camp under,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “And we just, it’€™s going to take a little more time to get back to the arm strength that we typically know him at, to have. Innings are starting to dry up a little more now that the starters are getting deeper. That was the move made.”

Hinojosa, who didn’t pitch at all in 2013 while executing his defection from Cuba, had somewhat of a rocky spring. The 28-year-old allowed eight runs on 14 hits over 8 1/3 innings.

“Impressed from the standpoint of what he was exposed to. much more structure and detailed that he’€™s come into in this camp,” Farrell said. “You marvel at a guy coming into a new culture, particularly with the way he got here. different baseball world. He’€™s got very good physical abilities. We’€™re going to send him to Pawtucket to pitch out of the bullpen there. if the need were to come up, he would best be suited to pitch in shorter stints out of the bullpen. Feel for three pitches. Not having pitched all last year because of the process he went through, he needs some time and some innings.”

Butler continued to impress, putting himself in position to crack the majors if the need arises, according to Farrell.

“Had a good feel for what he is,” Farrell said. “Continues to show that every time he walks in the field. As we mentioned to him on the way out, if the need were to arise, we’€™ve got one of three catchers we feel are a foul tip away to come up and replace someone if that need were to happen so Daniel is clearly in that mix.”

- Because he is slated to face the Orioles on Opening Day, March 31, Farrell opted to not have the lefty make his last scheduled start vs. Baltimore Wednesday. Instead the starter will appear in a minor league game. The same goes for Jake Peavy, who won’t pitch in the major league game Monday against the Rays in Port Charlotte.

- Craig Breslow‘s first spring training outing also won’t be against major leaguers, with the reliever joining Peavy in a minor league game, Monday. Part of the reason for Breslow not appearing in the big league game is due so the team could retroactively put him on the 15-day disabled list to March 22 (which wouldn’t be possible if he played in front of a paying crowd.

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Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford on John Lackey, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Daniel Nava

03.22.14 at 6:00 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford assess the next-to-last spring outing of Red Sox starter John Lackey, who gave up 10 hits and five runs, including two home runs, over 4 2/3 innings Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Petraglia and Bradford discuss the latest on contract negotiations for David Ortiz and Jon Lester and the base running lessons involving Daniel Nava.

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John Lackey takes a beating, hits a wall and lives to tell, Red Sox running game runs afoul

03.22.14 at 2:59 pm ET
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John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — John Lackey took quite the beating Saturday at Disney.

The veteran right-hander allowed 10 hits, including a pair of high-fly homers, and five runs over 4 2/3 innings as the Red Sox fell to the the Braves at Champion Stadium, 6-3, in his third start of the spring. He’s given up 20 hits and 13 earned runs over 12 1/3 innings this March. Lackey did not walk a batter and struck out six. His spring ERA rose to 9.49. Lackey, the projected No. 2 starter, will make one more spring appearance on Thursday before taking the mound for real on April 2 in Baltimore.

Lackey was not concerned about the number of hits he’s given up in three starts.

“It’s spring training, man. I’m not real concerned about a whole lot right now,” Lackey said. “I’m just trying to build up some arm strength and get ready for the real deal.

“I feel pretty good. I’m definitely not quite ready. I’ll still be building arm strength for a few more weeks, to be honest with you. I’ll be good enough to compete and should be just fine.”

The third inning was the most eventful of the day for the Red Sox right-hander. He struck out pitcher Alex Wood. Then speedy Jordan Schafer attempted to bunt his way on with a drag attempt to the first base side. Schafer popped it up a bit and it landed in the triangle between first base, second base and the pitcher’s mound. Lackey fielded the ball, lost his footing but not before scooping it with his glove hand to Daniel Nava at first for the out on a terrific play.

Lackey was slow to get up after falling on his right knee somewhat awkwardly, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski called out manager John Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson. After about 30 seconds on the mound, Lackey went back to work and gave up a high, wind-blown home run just over the wall in left to Andrelton Simmons, the first homer he’s allowed in three spring starts.

The next batter, Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, then ripped a liner back to the box that hit off Lackey’s backside. Lackey recovered quickly but could not retire Freeman, whom Lackey drilled on the back trying to throw him out as Freeman crossed the bag at first.

“Makes a heck of a play, came out of it without turning an ankle,” manager John Farrell said. “It kind of looked like an awkward play. But then the line drive drive fortunately catches him in the flesh part of the leg. We were able to avoid anything more severe.”

“It got me in the thigh, the big part so I’m fine,” Lackey said of the Freeman liner.

As for the bunt?

“A.J. was just being funny, giving me a rest,” Lackey said. “I was fine, nothing happened on that.

Dustin Pedroia was laughing with Lackey coming off the field and congratulated Lackey on his Pedroia-like scoop play. “I just asked if he liked that. He was pretty fired up,” Lackey said.

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Saturday notes: The (neuro)science of building a World Series winner, Mookie Betts and a strong starting rotation

03.22.14 at 12:25 pm ET
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Mookie Betts (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox continue to be on the leading edge of science and baseball.

Before the game against the Braves at Champion Stadium, Red Sox manager John Farrell detailed the team’s investment in the latest technology to scout and identify talent. It’s called neuroscience. And it’s a scientific method in which other teams in baseball – and other sports – are now investing a great deal of time and financial resources to identify and refine the talent pool available to them.

Want an example?

“Mookie Betts, that’s how he was identified. He was a bowler,” Farrell offered as a name that came immediately to mind. “It wasn’t like there were a whole lot of games to witness and watch but then there’s follow up work when guys come into the system at the minor league level to always to try to train and enhance that reactionary time. I think that would just continue to grow.

“Whether it helps focus and concentration and enhance all that, I just think that we’re scratching the surface on what kind of electronic tools can come into play to help players.”

Betts was drafted by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2011 MLB draft from John Overton High School in Brentwood, TN. He is a middle infielder in his fourth season in the system. Without neuroscience and neuro-scouting, Betts may have slipped through the system.

Farrell said neuroscience is used in many different ways, including having players use gaming consoles to test their reactions.

“Not so much on a daily basis, but it’s done on identifying players so there’s a neuro-scouting component to it,” Farrell said.

“Best way I could describe it in general, it helps with some of the processing of information because certain things will be presented to a player that they’ll have to identify certain things, whether that’s shapes, numbers, trends, and then how quickly you process it and repeat when it comes back up. It’s not different than some of the baseline testing for concussions, where you’ve got to really think back and remember different schematics that are thrown up in front of your eyes,” Farrell explained.

“Whether it gives an assessment on a player’s instincts, it’s more for his ability to process information and make decisions. When you’re dealing with reaction times that are in the split-seconds, you start to get a better understanding of what that person’s ability to make the right decision is. Whether that’s shows up on the base paths, the box, pitch recognition, all those things begin to measure the ability to process information and make decisions.”

The Red Sox have been at the leading edge of this type of evaluation for the better part of five years, starting with Theo Epstein‘s tenure in the late 2000s.

“It was starting to come into the organization around ’09 or ’10,” said Farrell, who was the pitching coach at the time. “This might be kind of where it started. I don’t know if other organizations have used it since then. When this was being brought into the game this is where it was being initiated.

“It’s like a consultant service. These people are certainly way beyond my thinking ability. I haven’t gone through and sat down and gone through some of the neuro-scouting that’s available.”

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No luxury tax implications of timing of extension for David Ortiz or Jon Lester

03.21.14 at 8:11 pm ET
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David Ortiz and the Red Sox have been discussing an extension this spring. (WEEI.com)

David Ortiz and the Red Sox have been discussing an extension this spring. (WEEI.com)

There was a time when the Red Sox were very careful to announce extensions after Opening Day. Players who hammered out the parameters of long-term deals in spring training but waited until after the first day of the season to announce them included David Ortiz, Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Gonzalez.

The reasoning was sensible enough. If the extensions had become official prior to the start of the season, then the players’ salaries for the season for which they were under contract would be recalculated for luxury tax purposes. So, for instance, in 2011, Adrian Gonzalez made $6.3 million. Had his seven-year, $154 million extension become official when the Sox traded for him from the Padres or during spring training, his deal would have been treated as an eight-year, $160.3 million pact — meaning a luxury tax figure of just over the average annual value of $20 million a year. By waiting until mid-April to announce the deal, Gonzalez counted for just $6.3 million in 2011 — thus saving the Sox millions in luxury tax penalties that year.

That history created an expectation that, if the Sox reach agreements with David Ortiz (who is making $15 million in 2014 but who counts for $17 million against the luxury tax) and Jon Lester (who is making $13 million in 2014 on a team option, but whose luxury tax figure is approximately $9.37 million), they wouldn’t be announced until after the start of the regular season to avoid a potential luxury tax hit.

Wrong.*

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which took effect starting in the 2012 season, eliminated the recalculation of a contract’s AAV as a result of an extension. So long as the second deal does nothing to alter the terms of the first, the two contracts are treated as separate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jon Lester says his contract talks are ‘headed in the right direction’

03.21.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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Jon Lester is hopeful a new contract could be reached by the start of the season. (AP)

Jon Lester is hopeful a new contract could be reached by the start of the season. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — While a new contract is not on the table yet, Jon Lester spoke like a man Friday that feels he definitely has reason to be optimistic he and the Red Sox will eventually work out a new deal.

Lester, after making his fifth start of the spring and lowering his ERA to 0.71, acknowledged that the Red Sox are busy right now. Not only are the Red Sox considering the future of their left-handed ace, they’re also trying to close in on a one-year extension for David Ortiz.

“I know they’ve been pretty busy with dealing with David’s stuff and all that,” Lester said Friday afternoon. “It’s a negotiation. No matter how optimistic people are about it, it’s a tough process. We’ll keep grinding it out and see where we get. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

In the final year of a five-year, $30 million deal paying him $13 million this season, Lester also said he would be willing to have talks extend into the regular season if there’s a reasonable expectation that a new contract is imminent.

“If you’re at the 5-yard line and you’re kind of closing in on the thing then, yeah, you’ll just spill it over but if we’re so far apart and it still doesn’t matter, then I think we’ll sit down and talk about it and see what the best interests are for both sides on that,” Lester said. “But as of right now, things are progressing and we’ll just keep hashing it out and see where it goes.”

Does Lester feel he’s in the red zone of closing in on a new deal?

“Not in the red zone right now. No, no, definitely not there but I think it’s going in the right direction. We’ve had good dialogue so that’s good.”

Lester’s comments come on the heels of a report from WEEI’s Rob Bradford that a deal is not close to being finalized.

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