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Red Sox send right-hander Kyle Kendrick to minor-league camp, but maybe not for long

03.28.17 at 10:20 am ET
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Kyle Kendrick

Kyle Kendrick

The Red Sox announced on Tuesday that right-hander Kyle Kendrick has been reassigned to minor-league camp.

How long he stays there is another question entirely.

Kendrick, 32, has impressed this spring, going 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA and 26 strikeouts vs. just four walks in 29 innings. The veteran right-hander hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since going 7-13 with the Rockies in 2015. He made 20 starts in the Angels system last year.

Kendrick has vaulted atop the organizational depth chart with his strong spring, making him the probable first line of defense if there’s an injury to a member of the rotation.

His chance could come sooner than later, with left-hander Drew Pomeranz getting a late start because of a sore elbow and then leaving one outing because of a sore triceps. Pomeranz owns a 9.00 ERA in three starts this Grapefruit League season and will be monitored closely as the season approaches.

The Red Sox are already down a starter because of David Price’s elbow injury, which means if Pomeranz can’t go, the Sox will be dipping into the minors for a starter, and Kendrick has put himself in a position to answer that call.

The nine-year vet is 81-81 lifetime between the Phillies and Rockies. He will remain with the Red Sox through his start against the Nationals on Thursday. The Red Sox now have 36 players in camp, including five non-roster invitees.

 

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Tyler Thornburg expected to open season on disabled list after being scratched with muscle spasm

03.27.17 at 5:04 pm ET
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Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

SARASOTA, Fla. — Another year, another key bullpen acquisition seemingly headed to the disabled list before Opening Day.

Last year, it was right-hander Carson Smith, who was hurt early in spring training and ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox hope he’s ready to return this June.

On Monday, it was Tyler Thornburg’s turn. The right-hander, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, was scratched from an expected appearance against the Orioles with what an upper right trapezius spasm.

After the game, both manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that Thornburg will almost certainly open the year on the DL.

“During the pregame throwing program, he felt like there was some spasm that was taking place in the trap area,” Farrell said. “It wasn’t shoulder-related. So we scratched him from the outing here today. Sent him back early to gain some treatment, and he’s set to have further testing tomorrow.

“It’s hard to say right now he’d have enough frequency of outings and pitch count to build up and to be ready by next Monday. We haven’t made that determination yet. Tomorrow is going to hopefully give us more information on what we’re actually dealing with here. What the root cause to a spasm is, that I don’t know at this point.”

Thornburg has been limited by shoulder discomfort since his last appearance in a big league game on March 1. In two appearance covering just 1 1/3 innings, he allowed nine runs (7 earned). He shut it down to strengthen his shoulder, but hasn’t bounced back as hoped.

The Red Sox acquired him from the Brewers over the winter for third baseman Travis Shaw, infielder Mauricio Dubon, and right-hander Josh Pennington in the hopes that he could take over the eighth inning.

He went 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA last year, by far his best season. He struck out 90 in 67 innings and recorded 13 saves.

This isn’t his first arm issue. Early in his career, he nearly underwent Tommy John surgery before deciding he could return with rest and rehab.

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Eight years after Christian Vazquez thought he would be released, he’s headed to his first Opening Day roster

03.27.17 at 10:44 am ET
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Christian Vazquez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A big part of the news emanating from Red Sox camp Monday was Blake Swihart being sent to the minors. It wasn’t a shock, considering he had options, and Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon did not.

But it did allow Vazquez to reflect on how far he has come in making his first Opening Day roster.

Two years ago, the catcher was saddled with the news that he would need Tommy John surgery. Then, last spring training, that same surgically-repaired elbow was still not allowing for the kind of impression needed to make the big league club.

But when looking back at the path he took to get to this point, Vazquez chooses to identify a time in 2009 — one year after he was taken in the ninth round — that could have been his defining moment, but wasn’t.

Playing for short-season, Single-A Lowell, Vazquez found himself as the Spinners’ third string catcher, with his 5-foot-9 frame tilting the scales at 215 pounds.

“I went like one month where I didn’t play in Lowell,” he remembered. “That year I was thinking they were going to release me. I wasn’t playing and hit like .123.”

The Red Sox sent Vazquez to their academy in the Dominican Republic to “get skinny and strong,” according to Vazquez. It paid off. After making Single-A Greenville in 2010, the catcher returned to become the Drive’s everyday backstop in 2011, hitting 18 home runs while throwing out better than 40 percent of his attempted basestealers.

“That year I started thinking I could do this,” he said. “I can play this game and be good. That’s where I figured it out. It changed my mind.”

It worked out.

Vazquez has gotten his body fat down to 12 percent (from 19 percent when he signed), and has shown the kind of arm that had first put him on the precipice of the big leagues two spring trainings ago.

“I’ve learned to take care of my body, my arm. That’s my money here. Taking care of myself, that’s my goal, every day,” Vazquez said. “I feel strong. I feel great. I’m excited.”

Why Joe Kelly is excited to be pitching after beer sales end

03.27.17 at 10:10 am ET
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Joe Kelly (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Joe Kelly (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s easy to assume that if you’re pitching in the late innings of a Major League Baseball game, and it’s close, there has been some importance placed on your abilities.

Heading into the regular season, Joe Kelly figures to be living that life, having been identified as the Red Sox’ eighth inning reliever, at least until Tyler Thornburg gets up to speed.

But Kelly, a closer in college, offered a fairly interesting take on why those high-leverage innings might feel a little different. And it has little to do with protecting a lead.

“When you go into the end of a ballgame there’s just a little bit different feeling. Fans are into the game more. They start to narrow down their focus,” he told WEEI.com Monday morning. “Those middle innings, or at the beginning of the game, they’re seeing their friends, talking or eating. But after the eighth inning there are no more beer sales so I’m pretty sure they’re watching the game. They get louder and more intense, which feeds onto the player. They get more focus because the extracurricular stuff isn’t going on.

“It’s something I’m excited for and I think I can do it.”

Kelly is almost through his first spring training as a relief pitcher, having pitched in eight Grapefruit League games. After a strong start, he has run into some difficulties in two of his last three outings, walking three Twins Sunday.

But overall, Kelly explained that he has few concerns heading into the real games next week.

“It’s been smoother than I thought it would be,” said Kelly, who power-ranked his pitches by identifying his fastball being in the best shape, followed by the slider, curveball and then changeup.

“I thought with the multiple outings, not getting as much off time as a starter, I thought I would get a little more sore than I have been. Knock on wood, I’m feeling good and haven’t been getting sore like I thought I would coming into camp.”

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Red Sox make roster moves with Opening Day 1 week away, including optioning C Blake Swihart to Triple-A

03.27.17 at 8:45 am ET
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Blake Swihart was optioned on Monday. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart was optioned on Monday. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Opening Day is one week away and the Red Sox are trimming their roster.

On Monday morning, the team optioned catcher Blake Swihart and shortstop Deven Marrero to Triple-A Pawtucket. Also, the Sox sent catcher Dan Butler and first baseman Sam Travis to minor league camp.

Swihart is the biggest name, but it was pretty much assumed he would start the year in Pawtucket given he is the only catcher with options.

Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez will be the two catchers on the roster.

Travis is a name to watch as he missed the majority of last season with an ACL tear, but the former second-round pick could potentially be added to the big league roster at some point this season. Some view him as the first baseman of the future and was the reason why the organization didn’t sign one to a big deal this offseason.

The Red Sox host the Pirates next Monday in the season opener.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: blake swihart, Dan Butler, deven marrero, sam travis

It’s starting to look like Hanley Ramirez will be full-time designated hitter to start season

03.26.17 at 10:33 am ET
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Mitch Moreland figures to get the majority of innings at first base early in the season with Hanley Ramirez still nursing a bad right shoulder. (WEEI.com photo)

Mitch Moreland figures to get the majority of innings at first base early in the season with Hanley Ramirez still nursing a bad right shoulder. (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — He took a few ground balls. Made a couple of flips to first. But other than that, Hanley Ramirez wasn’t an all-in participant in the Red Sox’ infield drills Sunday morning at JetBlue Park.

Along with his continued limited participation with the first baseman’s glove, it was also noticeable how much time Ramirez spent flexing and feeling his injured right shoulder. At one point trainer Paul Buchheit came over and listened as the infielder/designated hitter pointed to different parts of his affected area.

Saturday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the plan remained to get Ramirez some action in the field before the end of spring training. And moments later, Ramirez told WEEI.com was optimistic, saying he could play all the remaining games at spring training games.

“We just have get our first baseman ready,” said Ramirez, referring to Mitch Moreland. “I’m ready to go.”

But Farrell’s tone Sunday, and Ramirez’s actions, suggested the plan to have Ramirez play first base against lefty starters might be put on hold to start the regular season.

“When he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “I would hope that would still happen in spring training. His play and availability at first is one of the keys to how our roster can function at its best. But until he’s ready to go out there, I can’t put him on the field.”

Asked what he thought the chances of Ramirez playing in the field at some point in spring training were, Farrell added, “I’m still hopeful but recognizing where we are on the calendar.”

The good news for the Red Sox is that Ramirez can still hit, which he has shown throughout the Grapefruit League season. Heading into Sunday’s game against Twins, who he was hitting cleanup against, the righty slugger was hitting .298 with a .912 OPS to go along with three home runs in 47 at-bats.

After being sent to minors, has anything changed for Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig?

03.26.17 at 9:12 am ET
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Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was hardly a surprise.

Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig were part of a group who was reassigned to the minor leagues Sunday morning, joining outfielder Brian Bogusevic, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Jake DePew and pitcher Hector Velazquez. Noe Ramirez, who made the Opening Day roster a year ago, was also optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

So, has anything changed for Castillo and/or Craig? It depends.

In terms of their chances of finding significant time on the Red Sox roster, the duo’s plight remains the same. Craig is in the final year of his five-year, $31 million due, due to make $11 million this season, while Castillo is slated to make $10.5 million this season, with four more years left on a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.

As colleague John Tomase points out, it would cost the Red Sox $56,596 a day to keep Castillo on the 25-man roster. So a two-week stint with the big league club mean allocating nearly $800,000 to the outfielder.

What those numbers mean is that if the Red Sox wanted to carry either one of the two on the big league roster, it would put them over the luxury tax, opening the organization up for financial penalties Dave Dombrowski and Co. wouldn’t seem to view worth incurring.

Perhaps the biggest gain made by both players, however, is that they certainly didn’t hurt themselves when it comes to their perception within both the Red Sox and Major League Baseball.

In his 38 at-bats, Castillo hit .368 with a .911 OPS. Craig wasn’t quite as impressive, finishing at .250 with a .684 OPS, but did show a much more consistent ability to hit the ball hard than at any other time in his Red Sox’ career.

In the end, spring training didn’t change the narrative dramatically, but it might have at least not pushed both players totally off the radar (a fate that could have easily taken place).

Red Sox notebook: Hanley Ramirez still eyeing playing in field; David Price moves forward; Catching competition?

03.25.17 at 12:37 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While John Farrell spoke to the media Saturday morning, Hanley Ramirez could be seen having a intense discussion with infield instructor Brian Butterfield. A little while later, it was Farrell and Butterfield who were meeting up with Ramirez, with the Sox’ cleanup hitter holding his first baseman’s mitt.

It seems as though Ramirez might actually be on the verge of branching out to play a Grapefruit League game at first base.

“He played light catch the last couple of days,” Farrell said. “Just spoke to him in the training room here this morning. he feels like it’s getting there. Still, the importance of getting on the field will not be understated. Him getting to first base is meaningful. The way our roster is set up, I think playing first base against right-handers is important. That’s our goal going forward.”

Ramirez has been prevented from playing in the field due to a slower-than-anticipated throwing program that has been dictated by the health of his right shoulder. If healthy, the plan continues to be to play him at first against right-handed pitching, with Chris Young sliding into the designated hitters spot.

For some insurance, utility infielder Josh Rutledge got his first taste of first base this spring, starting at the position against the Rays in Port Charlotte Saturday.

— David Price is a long ways away from returning to the Red Sox’ rotation. But Saturday did represent a small step forward for the lefty pitcher.

“There was a serious of strength tests done this morning in the training room and felt like he was improved to the point of initiating more throwing,” Farrell said.

“I put a ball on the tee and try and hit the baseball off the tee,” Price said. “If it hits the tee first, it doesn’t count. You’ve got to knock the ball off. Stuff like that. I’m always doing stuff to kind of stay in competition. That’s probably why I play so many video games. It’s just being able to compete, staying in that competitive nature and stuff like that. I’ve definitely found stuff to try and entertain myself while I’ve been so bored.”

It has now been three weeks since Price returned from Indianapolis with his diagnosis.

“I mean, it’s tough. Some guys can handle the DL and be all right, and some guys, the DL’s not meant for them,” he said. “I feel like I’m one of those guys. It’s tough, but I’m getting through it.”

— Farrell isn’t backing off the premise that there is a competition at the catching position, thanks in large part to Blake Swihart’s success with the bat (.314 batting average).

But it still would be hard to imagine anybody but Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez making up the Red Sox’ catching tandem considering both are out of options, while Swihart can be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers.

As for matching up with certain starters, the combination of Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be the only true set battery.

“I’m not going to run from the fact that in a short number of starts, Vazqui and Eddie Rodriguez has proven to be an efficient pairing,” Farrell said. “I like the way Swi has caught all camp. There’s been improvement there. He’s probably been clearer in a way the more offensive of the three. And yet, you look at Sandy and the way he runs a game and the way he’s paired up with a number of guys. I’m not here to say who the two catchers are, but there’s some things inside of it that to me are pretty evident.”

— Tyler Thornburg came out of his first bit of game action in good shape, with the plan to pitch again Monday. As for jumping back into high leverage situations, Farrell said that will come in time.

“I think in fairness to him, and in fairness to our team, with the intent that he builds back to the role that we envisioned when we traded for him,” Farrell noted.

Red Sox have plenty of questions to be answered heading into final week

03.24.17 at 10:32 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been quiet. Almost too quiet.

While the Red Sox were lulling you to sleep throughout this marathon of a spring training, some possible concerns crept up. And now, with just about one week left, John Farrell’s team is hoping these final few Grapefruit League games will allow for some answers.

Here are the still undefined issues facing these Red Sox heading into April 3:

HANLEY’S SHOULDER

It was assumed that Hanley Ramirez would have played the field by now. He hasn’t.

While Ramirez’s right shoulder hasn’t presented a problem when it comes swinging a bat, with the righty hitter hitting .318 with a .971 OPS in his 44 Grapefruit League at-bats, there hasn’t been any opportunity to brandish his first baseman’s glove.

Because Ramirez can now occupy the designated hitter spot, this isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it does through a monkey wrench into the Red Sox’ plans. If the shoulder continues to eliminate opportunities for Ramirez to play first, Mitch Moreland would become an everyday player while not allowing to use Chris Young as a DH vs. lefties.

It could still work out, but the concern would be over-exposing Moreland, while not being able to take advantage of Young’s mastery against southpaws.

WHO WILL PITCH THE EIGHTH?

The good news for the Red Sox was that Tyler Thornburg resurfaced in a minor league game Friday and looked pretty good. After a few days down, the reliever who struck out 90 batters in 67 innings last season, will be back at it.

If all goes well, Thornburg could be relied on come Opening Day. But will he represent the kind of eighth-inning security blanket Farrell will be looking for?

Joe Kelly would seem to be the Red Sox’ back-up plan in the eighth, but he has had some ups and downs of late, most recently giving up two runs in an inning against minor leaguers Friday. The righty would still seem to be first in line after closer Craig Kimbrel and Thornburg.

WILL DREW POMERANZ BE READY?

Pomeranz and Farrell insist the lefty is on target to make his first scheduled regular season start, which would figure to come April 9 in Detroit. He did manage to rebound from a rough first two innings against the Blue Jays Friday to turn in an encouraging four-frame outing, offering optimism heading into the final week.

Pomeranz said on the Bradfo Sho podcast that two weeks ago he finally felt the stem cell injection shot kick in, and Friday offered the opportunity to rediscover his mechanics.

But Pomeranz certainly hasn’t hit the ground running like Steven Wright, who had been on the same delayed track as the southpaw. For peace of mind, it would certainly behoove the starter and his team to build on the momentum built in his last two innings.

WILL FARRELL PINCH-HIT FOR PABLO SANDOVAL?

With the possible exception of Dustin Pedroia — who is 13-for-26 this spring — here hasn’t been a hotter hitter than Sandoval. Entering Saturday, the third baseman was hitting .362 with a 1.065 OPS.

But the problem is the Red Sox still don’t know what they have with Sandoval against left-handers. He only has eight at-bats against lefties this spring, collecting one hit. And while Farrell, Sandoval and hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez can relay all kinds of optimism that the switch-hitter will be serviceable from the right side, there still has to be some trepidation.

It took Farrell a while that first month in April, 2015 before understanding that Sandoval needed to be pinch-hit for against lefties late in games, and it cost the Red Sox. The guess is that if Josh Rutledge and/or Young are available vs. left-handers in the final few innings, in games the Red Sox are tied or trailing in, Sandoval might get the hook.

WHICH SANDY LEON ARE THEY GOING TO GET?

Farrell has made it very clear Leon is being viewed as the starting catcher, beginning with the opportunity to catch Rick Porcello on Opening Day. But there has to be some uneasiness about which switch-hitter the Red Sox are going to get, the one that tore up the American League in June, July and August, or the September version of Leon.

Leon has looked better at the plate of late, collecting hits in each of his most recent four Grapefruit League games. But he is just 3-for-19 vs. right-handed pitching, having collected three hits in four at-bats when hitting from the right side against lefties.

WHEN WILL DAVID PRICE BE BACK?

Considering he hasn’t even played long-toss yet, probably not really soon.

Right now, considering the need to start from scratch when he does start throwing from a mound, a May return would seem to be the earliest option.

Xander Bogaerts intent on showing he belongs at top of Red Sox’ batting order

03.24.17 at 12:10 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The six-hole.

It’s clearly not where Xander Bogaerts wants to be, but is most likely going to end up.

“The only thing is that I’m used to hitting second or third in the past few years, in the first inning. Now, hitting sixth is something I have to adjust to,” Bogaerts said. “First and third, you’re hitting in the first, regardless. Sixth, you’re depending on getting guys getting on. It’s just an adjustment. You have to take your time and see how it all plays out. If you want to be at the top you have to go out and prove it.

“At the end of the season hopefully I’m back up there again. If not, as long as I’m in the lineup that’s what matters.”

Judging by Thursday’s batting order, which Red Sox manager John Farrell identified as possibly representative of what you’ll see Opening Day, Bogaerts will have to get his head wrapped around the unfamiliar spot in the lineup when going up against right-handed starters.

Dustin Pedroia. Andrew Benintendi. Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez. Mitch Moreland. And then Bogaerts.

While Bogaerts did end up in the sixth spot during the Red Sox’ three-game postseason run, the majority of his time over the past two seasons have been hitting second or third, where he manned in all but two of the regular season contests.

The company line for players being moved in the lineup always involves doing whatever is best for the team. And while Bogaerts takes that tact, he also is honest about his preferences when it comes to the batting order. It was a reality that was also brought to light when telling Farrell the cleanup spot wasn’t a preferred landing spot last season.

“I always view myself as a guy who is at the top of the lineup,” Bogaerts said. “It’s a little bit tough, but the manager makes out the lineup for what he thinks his best.

“The last two years have been crazy years for me. I think I’ve proven a lot. If it’s to happen, it’s to happen. I just have to go out and prove it, like I have the last few years. You want to hit. Sixth might be waiting for a little bit. That’s the only difference, that I have to sit in the second inning as opposed to the first.”

Bogaerts said while he hasn’t talked to Farrell about the move yet, he most likely will before camp is over. One of the things he might discover when discussing the dynamic with the manager is how much Farrell actually values the sixth spot.

This was Farrell in 2013 when talking about how he views a lineup: “Personally, I think one of the most important spots in the lineup is the six-hole. A higher average, more of a line-drive type, good consistent professional at-bats is one of the thing I look for because I think that spot comes up a lot with men on base. They might be pitching around that three-, four-, five-hole and you have that guy laying there looking to put up a quality at-bat and I think there are a lot of RBI situations to be had.”

So, what is Bogaerts’ preference at the end of the day?

“Second or third for me, was good. It’s what I was used to the past few years,” he said. “It’s an adjustment I’ll have to make. I could finish leadoff and I’ll have 10 stolen bases a month. Who knows?”

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