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Morning Fort: Joe Kelly not making scheduled start; Shane Victorino abandons switch-hitting

03.21.15 at 12:31 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

BRADENTON, Fla. — A few days ago, Joe Kelly was sure he would be making his scheduled start Sunday after experiencing right biceps tightness in his last outing. Despite his confidence, he will have to wait a bit.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said prior to his team’s game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field that instead of starting Sunday, Kelly will throw a 50-pitch bullpen session with simulated starts and stops.

“Even though he came out of his bullpen the other day with no issue, still at 70 percent, which might be a normal bullpen, we just want to get him up to normal game intensity, but not in a game setting,” Farrell said. “Maybe it’s a little precautionary, but it’s something I feel like he walked off the mound in a middle of a start and we’ll take that extended bullpen tomorrow with an eye on him making his normal start next Friday. … Not a setback whatsoever, just an intermediary step towards getting to game speed.”

— Other than Kelly, the news of the day was Farrell announcing Shane Victorino deciding to give up switch-hitting.

“He’€™s going to hit from the right side exclusively, so I think with all the work he’€™s been doing in the cage swinging left-handed, some of the tightness that he has, felt as a result of the left-handed swing, that gets alleviated and I think that has a chance to free up his mind as well,” Farrell said. “That’€™s the plan going forward with him, he’€™s going to hit right-handed.”

Victorino has been hitting from both sides throughout spring training, having gone 2-for-16 in Grapefruit League action.

“You want the most productive at-bats, regardless of what side they come from,” Farrell said. “And in Vic’€™s case, it was starting to take its toll, just the reps he was going through to try to get that swing productive. I think at the point of the work, it was starting to become counterproductive on the way he was feeling physically. That’€™s the rational behind him going right-handed.

“It’€™s kind of the whole right side. The torque and the twist, the rotation I should say with the number of swings taken. He feels it on the left side of the body.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Joe Kelly,

Rusney Castillo goes deep in first Grapefruit League at-bat

03.20.15 at 6:36 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Maybe Rusney Castillo is going to make things interesting in these final couple of weeks.

While most have ticketed Castillo for the minors to start the regular season due to time missed thanks to an oblique injury, along with the play of center fielder Mookie Betts, the Cuban outfielder began to make his mark Friday.

Entering the Red Sox‘ game against the Orioles in the top of the seventh, Castillo launched a three-run homer in his first official at-bat of spring training. (He had three at-bats in the Sox’ exhibition game against Northeastern, while playing in minor leagues Wednesday and Thursday).

“I was obviously happy it turned out to be a home run,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “More than anything, I was just happy that I was able to go out there completely healthy and pain free and felt really good out there. It’s really good to be back out there.”

Castillo will get the start in center field against the Pirates in Bradenton on Saturday.

And while his landing spot for Opening Day will remain uncertain for at least a week or so, for the time being Castillo is solace in the certainty of being on a baseball field.

“To be honest, it’s not something where I’ve ever felt any pressure to play baseball,” Castillo said. “Baseball is my one safe haven. I’ve just never felt pressure playing, even with the contract and everything. It’s not something I think about.”

The Red Sox ultimately lost the game, 11-5, with starter Justin Masterson making some strides after a disappointing outing his last time out.

Against the Orioles, Masterson allowed four hits and a run over four innings.Tommy Layne followed the starter with a perfect inning, while Mitchell Boggs (3 walks, no outs) and Zeke Spruill (1 IP, 3 runs, 4 hits) struggled in the late innings.

“It was better,” Masterson said. “Started off kind of babying the ball a little bit then it got better. Trying to get into my arm slot, stay there. It’s still a little bit inconsistent but for the most part, right there. … In the overall sense I was happy with it. A nice progression from where we were in the last outing to this outing. Perfect. Spring training.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Rusney Castillo,

Buster Olney on MFB: ‘I have real concerns about the Red Sox’

03.20.15 at 1:08 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB to discuss the Red Sox and the upcoming MLB season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

One of the biggest question marks for the Red Sox heading into opening day on April 6 concerns the reliability of the pitching staff.

“Other teams are seeing real problems with the rotation,” Olney said, adding: “I have real concerns about the Red Sox, I just don’t think they’re going to have enough pitching to win this division.”

As of now, the Red Sox starting rotation will consist of Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly. Olney raised doubts about the reliability of each of them.

Said Olney: “The reviews of Wade Miley’s outing last week were awful, and people were talking about how flat his stuff seemed. … Earlier this spring, scouts were telling me they had Buchholz at 90-93, in an outing last weekend, one scout told me he had him at 87-89, and if that’s going to be the case, that could be an issue. … Joe Kelly has been hurt, and he hasn’t thrown more than 128 innings.”

Regarding Masterston, Olney said, “He could not get the ball down [in his last start].”

The Red Sox reportedly have been looking at ways to strengthen their rotation. One of the more prevalent rumors concerns Phillies veteran Cole Hamels.

“I have no doubt that Cole Hamels will be traded by July 31,” Olney said. “But … if I’m the Red Sox, I’m waiting.”

Added Olney: “I think there will be a lot of opportunities to trade for pitching during the course of summer.”

To combat the potential inconsistency of the pitching staff, the Red Sox added some bats in the off season, including Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.

“In the eyes of other clubs, this is a team that’s going to have to hit it’s way to success if they’re going to win this year,” Olney said, adding, “I think it’s possible that they could hit so well that they wind up making the postseason, but I just don’t see it.”

For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

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Mike Napoli scratched with sore right ankle

03.20.15 at 12:28 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A full offseason of activity, along with a month of spring training, seemingly finally has caught up to Mike Napoli.

The Red Sox first baseman was scratched from his team’s lineup against the Orioles at JetBlue Park Friday with a sore right ankle.

“Nothing serious,” Napoli said. “I’ve been getting after it pretty much in camp and just got a little right ankle soreness. I was able to hit [Friday]. I’m going to be able to hit the next couple of days but I’m just going to let it be, rest up and then get back out.”

Napoli is 8-for-21 (.321) with two home runs in Grapefruit League action this spring training.

“Everything is good, but to keep on trying to play through it right now is probably not the smartest thing to do,” said the first baseman, who noted the ailment had nothing to do with his toe injury of a year ago. “I feel good. I’ll let it calm down and get back there.”

He added, “With my offseason and everything, I’ve been cramming a lot of stuff in. I’ve been working out a lot. I was able to run a lot in the offseason, running in cleats. I’ve played three days in a row twice already. But just let it be for a little bit. It’s not serious, but I just want to go out and play, not have to worry about it.”

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Morning Fort: David Ortiz not expected to play over weekend; Rusney Castillo back

03.20.15 at 10:49 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has evidently gone beyond dehydration.

After David Ortiz‘ missed games earlier in the week with the aforementioned diagnosis, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Friday morning that his designated hitter most likely won’t play over the weekend while dealing with “general soreness.”

“He’s under the weather,” Farrell said. “He’s dealing with a couple of things. He’s going to remain going through overall treatment just getting some of the general soreness out of it. I don’t anticipate him in a game over the weekend.”

Asked about being prepared for Opening Day — which, in this case, might include playing in the field in Philadelphia — Farrell noted, “In a couple of games before we break camp. That’s going to get enough familiarity. Even when we’ve been in interleague play before in National League ballparks … there’s been some days of ground balls, which he’s already been taking here. So he’ll have enough time to prepare for Philadelphia.”

Farrell said that Ortiz’s ailment is not related to the Achilles tendon issue the 39-year-old previously dealt with.

Ortiz is 4-for-15 with a home run in Grapefruit League action, having also gotten a pair of at-bats in the Red Sox‘ exhibition game against Northeastern.

— Koji Uehara was scheduled to play long toss Friday for the first time since aggravating his left hamstring.

“Our target is sometime in the middle of next week by the time he gets back on the mound after we get through some physical testing,” Farrell said of Uehara, who has three spring appearances under his belt. “But he can still keep his arm in shape. I still don’t question if he’s going to be ready for the start of the season. I fully expect him to be ready when the season begins.”

— Rusney Castillo is returning to game action at JetBlue Park after having spent the past two days getting playing time in minor league games.

Farrell said the plan was to get Castillo into the Red Sox’ game with the Orioles on Friday at some point, with an eye on starting the outfielder Saturday in Bradenton.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, David Ortiz, Rusney Castillo,

Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez assigned to Pawtucket

03.20.15 at 9:22 am ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Their time will come, just not in the near future.

The Red Sox ended Blake Swihart’s and Eduardo Rodriguez’s stints in major league camp Friday, sending both players to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Swihart acquitted himself well throughout his first major league spring training, going 7-for-18 (.389) with one home run and a 1.006 OPS.

“Both very strong. You look at two young guys who are talented, strong in their own respective positions,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Both had very good springs for the positions that they’re in. That is Blake coming in and not just being happy to be in big league camp, but to come in and compete. To know he, himself, is getting closer to becoming a major league player. When that time comes, who knows? And I think there are some areas that we recognized he has to continue to develop, and that’s probably as much on the receiving side, some blocking. That’s ongoing maintenance for any catcher. But I thought he showed well, very well.”

Farrell noted last week that he would not hesitate to call on Swihart if the need arose at the major league level, although the 22-year-old wouldn’t necessarily be the first option.

Rodriguez opened eyes as well, giving up one run over 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine and not walking a batter. While it would appear both Steven Wright and Brian Johnson might be ahead of the lefty in regard to the starting pitching depth chart, it is believed that the 21-year-old Rodriguez has the most upside of the group.

“In Eduardo’s situation, we don’t have the history with Blake, but a young, poised, extremely talented left-handed pitcher that has got a bright future,” Farrell noted. “There was one outing in particular in Bradenton where he didn’t have his best stuff and yet he didn’t let the traffic or the challenge of the inning effect the body language and poise to make pitches. He’s an impressive young guy.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, blake swihart, eduardo rodriguez,

Joe Kelly describes initial scare of arm injury as ‘different and awkward’

03.20.15 at 12:10 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly is good to go, but not without a minor scare.

Appearing Thursday night on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show, Kelly clarified that the biceps injury he suffered in his last start was something he had never experienced before.

Kelly left Monday’s start against the Mets with spasms in his right biceps, an injury he described as “different and awkward.” After suffering the injury, he had initially said it was similar to one he had had with the Cardinals.

“Anytime a pitcher comes out of the game and it’s injury related, you never know what can happen,” Kelly said. “Obviously some guys come out of games with tight forearms, and that leads to Tommy John [surgery].

“What I had the other day was a combination of my biceps not firing properly and I had a little bit of spasms, a tightening up, which I’d never had in my life. That’s something different and awkward. [The Red Sox] saw that my arm wasn’t working properly and got me out of the game.”

Kelly threw a 32-pitch bullpen on Thursday at what he estimated to be about 75 percent effort, and then declared himself ready to make Sunday’s start against the Phillies. An MRI earlier this week found no structural damage.

“Today told me basically that I’m good to go,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t game speed. I didn’t have a chance to really let anything go. … It was a good session, more for the training staff, the medical staff and the coaches to let them know I’m all right. I like to pitch through a lot of stuff. Some guys would come out of the game early if they’re not feeling right. That’s something I’m not very good at. I pitch through pretty much anything.”

Kelly added that his arm is sound.

“There’s no structural damage or anything like that,” he said. “We’re 100 percent sure there will be no further damage. It’s one of those things ‘€“ if you get it, you’ve got to work through it and pitch through a little dead arm.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Joe Kelly,

Red Sox notebook: Joe Kelly seems ready to make next start

03.19.15 at 1:02 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Others might still be wondering, but Joe Kelly seems like he has little doubt he will make his next start, Sunday.

After throwing 32 pitches in a bullpen session outside JetBlue Park Thursday, Kelly proclaimed that the biceps ailment that had forced him out of his last outing was no longer an issue.

“That’€™s the plan,” said Kelly of keeping on his current schedule. “We’€™ve been working on this thing and trying to get my arm feel as good as possible and get ready for the season. Obviously you want to be healthy and feeling good. My arm is feeling good right now. Obviously a lot better when I had to come out of the game. After today, my bullpen session, I feel really confident where I’€™m going to be at in two days.”

While Kelly didn’t truly air out any of his pitches, he did integrate all his offerings, including the off-speed stuff that had bothered him during his recent 2 2/3-inning outing.

“I felt good on my bullpen,” said Kelly, who will appear on the Hot Stove Show on WEEI Thursday night (6). “I didn’€™t throw it obviously 100 percent, which I never do in my bullpens. What I got out there today was I got my body going, tried to see how the arm feels. I knew it was feeling fine, but it was more for staff, medical staff, coaching staff. For them to see and make sure I’€™m a guy who likes to pitch through a lot of things. It was more for them. But I felt pretty good out there. I threw about 70 percent. It went well.”

Kelly added, “Obviously on my off-speed pitches I didn’€™t put the intensity I would in the game because I wanted to go out there and get out feeling good and not overwork it, get tired or start breaking up nasty stuff just in case it wasn’€™t feeling up to par. But today went well and I’€™ll definitely a good step to try and pitch in two days.”

The last obstacle for Kelly to clear is approval from the Red Sox‘ medical staff upon arriving at the park Friday. The pitcher was optimistic he would be getting clearance.

“I’€™m going to feel good tomorrow,” he said. “It usually feels better the day after and today it felt fine, so I know I’€™m going to feel pretty good tomorrow.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly,

Koji Uehara says getting ready for Opening Day ‘might be close,’ but optimistic

03.18.15 at 12:43 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Koji Uehara has been through this hamstring thing before, although the reliever noted that this tweak of his left leg wasn’t as serious as his pull a few years back in Baltimore.

The closer did, however, note that this setback does add some uncertainty to his preparation.

“I feel that it might be a close call but I should be ready,” said Uehara through a translator when asked if he thought he would be ready for April 5.

Uehara, who has pitched three times this spring, said locking in on a return date was “nothing that I can predict right now.” And in regard to how many outings he might need to be ready for the regular season, the righty noted, “It’€™s something that the coaches will probably decide. I could probably be ready without even appearing in a game.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Koji Uehara,

Depth watch: Why Red Sox are trying out Matt Barnes in bullpen; backup starters power rankings

03.18.15 at 10:34 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The initial reaction to John Farrell‘s subtle suggestion that Matt Barnes would be working as a reliever going forward was that it might be a move executed in part because of Koji Uehara’s hamstring injury. (He remains day-to-day, according to Farrell.)

Not necessarily.

The primary impetus for Barnes once again living the life as a reliever is because the Red Sox are searching for some velocity out of their ‘pen. It was one of the reasons Alexi Ogando was prioritized over someone like Burke Badenhop in the offseason, and is a pretty good explanation for drawing back on the UConn product’s work as a starter.

Brandon Workman could have been that guy, but he hasn’t rediscovered the velocity of 2013.

Farrell talked the other day about the change in offense approach due to powerful bullpen arms, with lineups not necessarily wanting to drive fading starters out of the game because of the heat waiting for them out of the ‘pen. Before the addition of Barnes, that sort of dynamic seemed somewhat lacking out of the Red Sox relievers.

According to Fangraphs.com, the Red Sox relief pitchers were dead last in average velocity, clocking in (for fastballs) at 91.4 mph.

Another less pressing concern for the Red Sox is the ability of Barnes to pitch more than one inning.

Right now it appears as though Tommy Layne is going to make this team, leaving him, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica and Ogando as more-times-than-not one-inning guys. Anthony Varvaro and Craig Breslow have the capability to extend themselves, with Varvaro going beyond one inning six times last season, and Breslow doing it on 10 occasions.

With the wake-up call that Joe Kelly’s sore biceps gave the Red Sox earlier this week — (they won’t know if he will make his start Sunday until throwing off a mound Thursday) — it’s also probably a good time to see who would be first to fill in if rotation spots did start opening up.

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