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What should we make of Pablo Sandoval?

03.18.17 at 5:36 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pablo Sandoval is hitting the stuffing out these spring training baseballs.

The third baseman’s latest Grapefruit League triumph came Saturday afternoon when he notched two more hits, both home runs. He how has three round-trippers for the spring, with two of them most likely representing the furthest hits of any Red Sox player this month.

Sandoval is now hitting .333 with a .965 OPS in his 39 at-bats, while making plays on defense he would have no chance at a year ago. He’s also running the bases like we haven’t seen since joining the Red Sox, beating out close plays at first on a few occasions that would have been outs last spring training.

Oh, and he still weighs a lot less when getting beat out for the third base job last season.

And, guess what? He’s also saying all the right things, as was evident after the Red Sox’ 12-5 win over the Twins Saturday.

“First, I don’t think about myself,” Sandoval said. “I think my fans and teammates. This is a team I have a lot of things to prove for them because up and downs in my career. You have to prove a lot of things right now. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m going to continue doing it for the fans and my teammates who have respect for the game. I want to continue doing all the things I’m doing on the field.”

But this whole deal is far from being punctuated. That’s why when given the opportunity to hand Sandoval the starting third base job after Saturday’s win, John Farrell wouldn’t walk through that door.

“He’s done everything you’re looking for,” the Red Sox manager said. “I don’t see any reason to say he’s the guy. Just continue to go play. We’ll put the best team on the field in a given day.”

Yes, Sandoval has checked off all the boxes … except one.

Through no fault of his own, the switch-hitter still hasn’t really been tested against left-handed pitching. He has been sitting at six at-bats vs. southpaws to date, notching a single hit.

And while there has been some optimism about how his swing has looked hitting righty, there really can’t be any kind of leap of faith, particularly considering half of those at-bats have resulted in strikeouts.

Perhaps there will be an about-face from the 2-for-41 horror show Sandoval presented hitting righty against lefties the last time he was a full-time player, in 2015. But that is clearly one part of the resurgence we can’t define.

And if you think a lack of exposure during spring training isn’t a big deal, remember that Hanley Ramirez got no more than a handful of fly balls in game action during spring training before being thrown into left field during the regular season. How did that work out?

“We’ve got a lefty coming at us on Monday in Wade Miley. There’s going to be an opportunity there,” Farrell noted. “The limited number of at-bats right-handed, it’s been encouraging. It’s been better than anytime in the three years now that he’s been here. That’s a product of just being in better athletic condition.”

There doesn’t seem to be a doubt that Sandoval will start at least the first three games of the season, all of which figure to be against Pittsburgh right-handed starters. The question will come when the Pirates bring in lefty relievers to turnaround the third baseman.

In these last two weeks it will be up to Farrell to uncover if Josh Rutledge will be the better option in those situations.

“Today is probably as good as you’re going to see from Panda,” Farrell said. “Another encouraging day. I would just describe it as another building block in his spring training to get back to previous levels.”

Why John Farrell thinks Hanley Ramirez had ‘breakthrough’ in quest to actually play game in the field

03.18.17 at 11:08 am ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hanley Ramirez has the luxury of not having to throw a baseball. That is part of his new lot in the life.

But it sure would make the Red Sox feel better about their overall plan if he did.

Ramirez’s right shoulder continues to not allow for game action at first base, limiting him to designated hitter thus far through the Grapefruit League. He can do that, of course, because with no David Ortiz, and with Mitch Moreland manning first, the dynamic is different from a year ago.

With just more than two weeks to go with the regular season, it is approaching that time where the Red Sox should start determining if this is a serious issue or not.

Red Sox manager John Farrell doesn’t believe it is.

“He had a very good day yesterday and again this morning with some of the manual patterns and resistance he’s going through with his arm,” Farrell said Saturday morning. “We feel like there’s been a little bit of a breakthrough here. We’re anticipating that throwing to continue to progress and ramp up. The goal, obviously, is still to get him games at first base while in camp, and we’re moving towards that.”

So, will Ramirez play in the field before the team leaves spring training?

“I would love there to be the most possible, but we’ll put him out when he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “He still continues to drill work and ground balls at first base. It’s not like he’s been completely absent of any work on the field. The throwing component to it, whether it’s the front end of a double play, that’s not been there. Game reactivity, game reaction, speed, we’d love to get him a handful of games before we get out of here.”

“I’m feeling better. It’s a day-to-day thing,” Ramirez said. “Day by day.”

In the meantime, Ramirez continues his work at the plate. Heading into Saturday, he was hitting .235 with an .804 OPS in 34 at-bats.

“Even where Hanley was so good at the beginning of last year, he had a tremendous year last year, but he got back to that right-center-field stroke,” Farrell said. “Even in spring training, they’re not giving him anything out over the plate. He’s reacting to some balls on the inner part of the plate. He feels good physically swinging the bat. He’s in a good place offensively, but the complete player is what we’re still striving to accomplish.”

How is Hanley Ramirez dealing with not being at World Baseball Classic? He sleeps

03.17.17 at 12:51 am ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was a reason Hanley Ramirez wanted to play once again in the World Baseball Classic. It looks like a lot of fun.

But Ramirez wasn’t with his Dominican Republic countrymen when they took on Venezuela Thursday night. Instead he could be found getting three more at-bats at JetBlue Park during the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Pirates.

He works out. He sits at his locker. He plays in meaningless Grapefruit League games. Thanks to a balky right shoulder, this is the life Ramirez has been living. It’s a far cry from the festive atmosphere of the WBC.

So how is Ramirez dealing with not being with his WBC team?

“I don’t watch it. I go to sleep,” Ramirez told WEEI.com. “It’s tough because I want to go out and represent my country, but I couldn’t do it. So it’s tough, yeah.”

Ramirez does say, however, that the early bedtime isn’t strategic.

“When I leave the stadium I just go to sleep. Not because I don’t want to watch it or nothing like that,” he said. “I’m just tired.”

Ramirez’s priority right now is to get healthy enough to start playing games at first base, where he hasn’t manned yet during this spring training.

Red Sox manager John Farrell has said he is optimistic Ramirez will be ready to play in the field when the regular season rolls around, with the Red Sox’ plan to put him at the position against left-handed starting pitchers.

Ramirez — who his hitting .258 with an .877 OPS with two home runs in Grapefruit League play — shares that optimism.

“I’m feeling better,” he said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. Day by day.”

Seven years after his surgery, remembering what Ryan Westmoreland might have been

03.16.17 at 9:27 pm ET
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WestmorelandFORT MYERS, Fla. — Ryan Westmoreland’s manager with the Lowell Spinners, Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina, couldn’t fathom it when reminded.

“I can’t believe it’s been seven years,” DiSarcina said Thursday afternoon.

But it has been.

On March 16, 2010, Westmoreland underwent surgery on a cavernous malformation of his brain stem, for all intent and purposes ending the career of a player many believed might be the next great New England superstar.

The anniversary served as an opportunity to remember how good Westmoreland, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft, was, and how good he might have ended up being.

“That was the question I asked a lot of people,” said Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant, who had tracked Westmoreland through his high school career at Portsmouth (RI) High. “[Former Red Sox general manager] Theo [Epstein] would be the first to ask because Theo just raved nothing but superlatives about him. From what I had heard, 30-30. That kind of guy. An impact, everyday guy for a long time.”

What intrigued many about the 6-foot-2, 212-pound outfielder was how fast he came on after graduating high school. First came the draft, but then Westmoreland really started getting people talking in the months leading up to his signing in August, 2008.

“I’ve never seen anybody come on more than over the course of the summer,” Fagnant remembered. “We saw a lot of him that summer because it wasn’t a slam dunk we were going to sign him. It was the kind of thing where we had to monitor him. I saw him probably about 15 times between the draft and the time we saw him. What stood out was how much better he got between the day we drafted him and when we signed him in August. And obviously when we signed him, he was worth every penny. We took a flier on him in the fifth round, but what we got was a slam dunk first-rounder.”

It was Westmoreland’s first full professional season, while with the short-season Single A Spinners, that he allowed for the biggest of expectations.

In 60 games for DiSarcina’s Lowell team, the lefty batter hit .296 with seven home runs and an .885 OPS while going 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts.

“It’s difficult to project, especially a kid coming out of high school like that, as far as how far he would go because there are so many other factors out of his control. Whether he gets injured, gets traded or peaks too soon. So many things can change his path. But the one thing that was certain was his physical ability,” DiSarcina said. “Having seen him for that short season in Lowell, things that stuck out in my mind was coaching third base and when he would score from second on a base hit you could hear him running by you. He was that fast. Very similar to Mike Trout. He rips ground. You could hear him go by you.

“In the batter’s box, he may have been a high school kid, but he conducted himself as a college kid. Just very professional at-bats, great eye. Things high school kids normally wouldn’t have. Didn’t swing at many breaking balls in the dirt with two strikes. He got in good counts a lot of the time. He worked hard on his defensive side of things as far as his throwing ability with his arm.”

All of it was enough to dream what might have been for the now 26-year-old trainer.

“His physical ability and his body, the work that he did there that year, for me, I was very excited for him,” DiSarcina said. “It wasn’t something where this kid needed four or five years in the minor leagues. It doesn’t matter what level, but it was just because the way he performed and dominated that level, I could see him ending that next year ending in Double A. And once you’re in Double A you’re a phone call away.”

Chris Sale gets regular season-level upset at himself in spring training game

03.16.17 at 8:39 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — First there was the play on the field, one which saw Chris Sale fail to get over to cover first base on a ground ball during his spring training outing Thursday night at JetBlue Park.

The result was the pitcher whacking himself in the head.

Then came the postgame, after his four-inning outing in which he allowed three runs on seven hits to the Pirates. After a few questions, and generic answers regarding the outing, along came the topic of the mental miscue.

The result of that was a tone not normally found in March 16 spring training analysis.

“That’s stupid,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’ve done that 400,000 times since we’ve been here, covering first base. A ball hit over there, cover first base. That’s just a stupid mistake on my part. I’ve got to be better than that, even here. There’s no excuse for that, at all.”

As for Sale’s takeaway from the 74-pitch outing, it wasn’t great, but good enough.

“I got some work in today,” Sale said. “I got great defensive plays behind me, honestly. I’m just trying to get through it and get some good work in and stay on top of things.”

He added, “I didn’t feel sharp today. I felt great, just not sharp. I wasn’t able to locate when I needed to. The second inning, I got two great defensive plays behind me, and CY [Chris Young] there in the third inning. Those are huge even on days like today where you’re just trying to piece it together. Those are added confidence boosters that helped me get back to where I needed to be.”

Everything you need to know about where Red Sox roster stands

03.16.17 at 6:53 pm ET
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Fernando Abad (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Fernando Abad (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two weeks from Monday it all starts. So, with the Red Sox taking on the team they are opening the regular season with, Pittsburgh, Thursday night at JetBlue Park, it seemed like a good time to offer what’s what when it comes to the club’s roster.

“Where is our left-handed relief going to shake out as, and how does our bench and the third-base combination thereof play out? There’s been nothing determined,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “The same situations exist — left-handed relief, the bench and third-base situation, who’s going to be in that tandem behind the plate. We’re starting to get a little more information on the rotation, just by virtue of the physical ailment to David Price, to who’s pitching currently.”

That lefty reliever spot would seem to be the one legitimate unknown, with Robby Scott, and maybe even Edgar Olmos, certainly making a strong case for unseating Fernando Abad.

While Abad has made three appearances for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, giving up two hits in 1 2/3 innings, Scott has thrown in six innings, not allowing a run over six innings. Scott does, however, have options, which isn’t the case for Abad.

The Red Sox are clearly intrigued by what Abad can deliver, as is evident by their willingness to blow through the deadline (March 15, 2 p.m.) to cut the lefty and only be on the books for 1/6th of his salary. The next checkpoint will come March 29 at 2 p.m., with the Sox being on the hook for 1/4 of Abad’s $2 million deal if he is released. After that, the team will be forced to pay the reliever the whole ball of wax.

And Abad did come through in Thursday night’s WBC game, coming on with runners on first and third in the fifth inning to induce a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Venezuela’s Ender Inciarte to preserve a 1-0 Dominican Republic lead.

Olmos has become the wild card.

The 26-year-old lefty isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, and is working on a minor-league deal. But the fact he has struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings thus far this spring suggests there might be something there. One of the obstacle Olmos currently faces is a hamstring injury, which forced him from his outing in Dunedin Monday.

“Edgar Olmos is throwing the ball very well,” Farrell said of the southpaw, who has pitched in 11 big league games. “One of the reasons we pursued him is the curveball. We feel like it’s a pitch that can have consistent success at the big league level. He’s starting to build some arm strength. We’re starting to see more power to his fastball to create greater separation between the two pitches. He’ll get on the mound hopefully tomorrow to hopefully throw long toss out to 120 feet today, so we’ll anticipate him getting back on the mound. The reason he came out of the game the other day was short-lived. He’s been a guy who has impressed so far.”

As for the extra infielder, it would be hard to see Josh Rutledge not having the inside edge.

Not only is Rutledge a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to stay on the major league roster or be returned to Colorado, but he hits right-handed. With Brock Holt serving as the left-handed-hitting option off the bench, Marco Hernandez would seem to be in an uphill battle despite a spring training that has seen him hit .355 with a 1.041 OPS.

It certainly would seem the two catchers who will break camp with the Red Sox will be Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, who are both without options. Blake Swihart has certainly made it a more difficult decision, hitting .309 with an .819 OPS. Conversely, Vazquez entered Thursday hitting just .179 while Leon is 2-for-14 (.143)

Still, as Farrell explained, offense won’t be the priority.

“Catching is the hardest thing to get a read on as far as their timing,” the manager said. “We’ve been in a situation where we have rotated three guys in a starting role, so guys have been getting two at-bats every third day. With games having started yesterday on the minor league side, we’ll start getting catchers over there to get three or four at-bats on days they aren’t catching here. The offensive evaluation can be a little unfair. Blake has swung the bat very well, no denying it. So if you start to look at batting average as the comparable, that’s something, personally, I don’t think you can do at that position.

“There’s so much more to the position. There’s so much more to the organization depth needs. So it would be extremely short-sighted to say we are going to declare who is the catching tandem based on batting average.”

And, finally, the starting rotation?

Right now you’re looking at Rick Porcello, followed by Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz.

“Based on the calendar, it puts Steven and Drew in games back here that weekend that we depart and head north,” Farrell said. “That would be a best-case scenario. That means they’ve taken the ball every days and are building up to, at that point, roughly 85 pitches.”

Eduardo Rodriguez asked to join Team Venezuela in WBC, but politely declines

03.15.17 at 12:06 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today)

Eduardo Rodriguez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Eduardo Rodriguez could have joined the excitement in San Diego. He instead to focus on his real job.

Prior to his team’s game against the Rays Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Rodriguez had been asked by Team Venezuela to join its club for the next round at the World Baseball Classic, but the lefty declined the opportunity.

Rodriguez was initially planning on playing in the tournament before hurting his knee while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League.

“They requested and he denied,” Farrell said. “He decided to stay here. Given all he has come off this winter, the treatment he currently goes through. He’s decided to stay here.”

Venezuela kicks off its Pool F play with a matchup against the United States Wednesday night, in which Felix Hernandez starts for his home country. The club has dealt with major run prevention issues throughout the tournament, giving up 11 runs to Mexico, 10 to Italy and 11 in its last game against Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez has put himself in a solid position to occupy the No. 3 spot in the Red Sox’ rotation, assuming David Price starts the year on the disabled list. He has made three Grapefruit League outings, giving up three runs in nine innings while striking out seven and walking two.

“In addition to showing good stuff and throwing strikes, the fact that his slider has become more of defined pitch, and when I say defined I mean the shape of it, the action to it, that’s become more of true weapon,” Farrell said. “Last year his slider would be more of a cutter and to a hitter there wasn’t a lot of separation between the pitches. There’s more of that this year. There’s more of put-away pitch for him at times, so that adjustment that he’s gone through has been a net-plus right now.”

To nobody’s surprise, John Farrell has named Rick Porcello his Opening Day starter

03.15.17 at 11:40 am ET
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Rick Porcello will start on Opening Day. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello will start on Opening Day. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — You win a Cy Young Award, the honors keep coming.

Before facing the Rays on Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed that Rick Porcello will start on Opening Day against the Pirates at Fenway Park. Farrell said Chris Sale will start the second game, and that the rest of the rotation would be determined by camp, with Eduardo Rodriguez potentially in line for the third spot.

It will be the first Opening Day start for Porcello, whom Farrell informed of his decision upon arriving at spring training. It didn’t require extensive debate.

“No. There really wasn’t,” Farrell said. “We had three candidates that were certainly worthy and capable, but I think there’s a lot to be said for the year Rick had, the leader he’s become on our team, and the dependable pitcher that he is. All of those factors, that was something in some brief discussions with some other guys in the offseason, but as I mentioned to both David Price and others, we need to get deeper into camp. This conversation will happen at the appropriate time. We felt like if everything played out with no issues, Rick would be the guy.”

Porcello went 22-4 last year with a 3.15 ERA to surpass former teammate Justin Verlander in the Cy Young Award voting. Both Price and Sale have maintained since the start of camp that Porcello should get the ball on Opening Day.

“You pitch really well, you earn the Cy Young Award or are voted the top pitcher in the league, i think that carries a lot of weight in the minds of other pitchers,” Farrell said.

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Hanley Ramirez hasn’t cut his hair in five years

03.14.17 at 5:04 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez is slated to play a big role in the Red Sox lineup this season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez is slated to play a big role in the Red Sox lineup this season. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

When Hanley Ramirez steps into the batter’s box, it’s difficult to ignore the long blond dreadlocks that seem to overtake his batting helmet. In a Boston Globe profile, Ramirez reveals the secret behind them.

Ramirez, who is one of the players tasked with replacing David Ortiz in the middle of the lineup this season, says he hasn’t cut his hair in five years. He also explains the reason why he doesn’t wear new helmets, instead opting to smear pine tar on his old ones.

“I don’t like new helmets,” he says.

Simple enough.

At 33 years old, Ramirez is now an elder statesman on the Red Sox. He’s coming off an impressive bounce back season, in which he hit 30 home runs and knocked in 111 runs with an .866 OPS.

As a DH, Ramirez’s career track record is an even better than that. He’s batted .331 with a 1.014 OPS and 10 homers in 36 games at the position. If those numbers are an indication of how he’ll produce this season, Ramirez will only continue to win over Red Sox fans after a disastrous debut campaign in 2015.

If all goes according to plan, those blond dreads will take a lot of trips around the bases this summer.

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Manny Delcarmen looking for one last try with Red Sox

03.14.17 at 12:19 pm ET
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Manny Delcarmen (WEEI.com photo)

Manny Delcarmen (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A blast from the past is looking for one more run with the Red Sox.

Manny Delcarmen, who last pitched in the major leagues in 2010, worked out for the Sox Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park in an attempt to latch out with his former organization as a minor-leaguer.

The 35-year-old Delcarmen spent 2016 pitching in the Mexican League after spending the two previous seasons with the Nationals’ Triple-A club.

The righty, who was taken in the second round of the 2000 draft by the Red Sox, left Boston after getting traded to Washington for Chris Balcom-Miller with a month to go in the 2010 campaign. Delcarmen’s best season came in 2009, when he appeared in 73 games for the Red Sox, totaling a 3.27 ERA.

Delcarmen spent the offseason working with former Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold, who also oversaw the workouts of Dodgers’ starter Rich Hill and Craig Breslow, who is in Twins camp on a minor-league deal. He still lives in Massachusetts, just 30 minutes from the home of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, McCoy Stadium.

During his showcase for the Red Sox, Delcarmen was throwing his fastball at 91-92 mph. After catching up with a few of his former coaches and teammates, the West Roxbury native drove to West Palm Beach to workout for the Nationals.

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