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Daniel Bard returns to face Red Sox, identifies where problems may have started

03.14.16 at 2:28 pm ET
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Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Bard’s journey has been pretty well documented.

Once one of the best relievers in the majors, tried his hand at starting in 2012 only to see his career head down a terrible path due to control issues. Eventually he landed with the Rangers and then Cubs, who kept him in Arizona for the entirety of the 2015 season to try to find his old form.

After his release from Chicago, Bard spent this past offseason trying out a new workout — a weighted ball program — before getting a call from a former Red Sox minor league teammate, T.J. Large, who is now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

The interest led Bard to sign a minor league deal with the Pirates, who he found himself with when visiting JetBlue Park Monday afternoon.

(Update: Bard pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out Sandy Leon while throwing his fastball at 95 mph.)

But where did this uncomfortable path start for Bard? Was it when he made the move from reliever to starter after the 2011 season? Did it spiral after getting sent down for good after making his most recent big league appearance, April 27, 2013?

Monday, he identified where he believed the problems started.

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Live blog: Joe Kelly, Red Sox take on Pirates at JetBlue Park

03.14.16 at 1:04 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Joe Kelly gets the start as the Red Sox take on the Pirates Monday afternoon. Old friend Daniel Bard has made the trip for the Pirates and we’ll see if he gets into the game.

Follow all the action in the live blog below.

Live Blog Red Sox vs. Pirates — March 14, 2016
 

Red Sox notes: Christian Vazquez intent on making roster decision tough one

03.14.16 at 10:15 am ET
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Christian Vazquez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez is working his way back after missing last season following elbow surgery. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The presumption is that the Red Sox will have Christian Vazquez start the 2016 in Triple-A.

Maybe we should take another look at that narrative. Vazquez certainly thinks so.

While the catcher has been somewhat eased through spring training after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last March, Vazquez sees no reason why he shouldn’t be viewed as a healthy major leaguer when Opening Day rolls around in three weeks.

“I feel good. In these last three weeks I want to show them I’m back,” said Vazquez, who gets the start Monday with Joe Kelly on the mound for the Red Sox. “I’m here. I’m here to help my pitchers, to help my team. We’ll see what happens.

“That’s my goal, to show them I’m healthy and I’m 100 percent so I can play nine innings.”

The fly in the ointment is the overflow of catchers on the major league club right now, with Blake Swihart currently being designated as the starter with Ryan Hanigan serving as the backup.

Things can change, as we were reminded when Swihart was driven from Sunday’s game after being hit in the mask with a foul ball. (Swihart was deemed good to go Monday.) But, so far, the only thing that hasn’t gone as planned might be Vazquez’s advanced progression to date.

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Travis Shaw on Bradfo Show: Using spring training at-bats to ‘force myself into the lineup’

03.14.16 at 9:59 am ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

Red Sox first baseman/third baseman/outfielder Travis Shaw joined Rob Bradford on the most recent episode of the Bradfo Show to discuss what he did this past offseason to keep his momentum from 2015 going, as well as what he can do to get into the everyday lineup in 2016.

In 65 games (226 at-bats) last season, Shaw hit .270 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs. He’s continued the momentum this spring, as he’s 10-for-19 with two homers and eight RBIs going into Monday.

Shaw feels he’s doing everything in his power to potentially get an everyday spot in the lineup, even with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval ahead of him on the depth chart.

“I feel like if I keep swinging it like I am, there’s definitely going to be more opportunities for me to hit,” Shaw said. “[Being] a left-hander hitter, I feel like I can offer a lot in the middle of this order and that has kind of been my goal this whole spring, to continue to prove to them that last year wasn’t a fluke and this is who I am and who I am going to be for a long time. It feels good to still be in this spot right now. I feel like I am in a good spot on this team. Even though I don’t have a starting role right now, I feel like this year could still be a pretty good year for me.”

The left-handed hitter did say he thought about his future when it was announced Ramirez would be making the switch to first base.

“It crosses your mind,” he said. “Last year was a pretty good year for me and that is a pretty good — I think — first impression that I made. It just shows there are guys in this game that are as good as you all the time. For me I try not to look at that and let my at-bats speak for itself. I feel like if I can continue to swing it like I am and like I did last year, I guess I can try and force myself into the lineup as much as I can.”

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Blake Swihart leaves game after foul ball to mask

03.13.16 at 2:39 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — This is why March 13 roster projections can be tricky business.

The Red Sox’ catching situation became a bit more unpredictable Sunday, as the projected Opening Day starter, Blake Swihart, was forced to leave the game against the Rays with two outs in the third inning.

Swihart exited after take a foul ball off the bat of Tampa Bay hitter Patrick Leonard off of the catcher’s mask. The impact point appeared to be in proximity of the backstop’s mouth area.

It was announced later that Swihart had suffered a contusion to his jaw, and there were no signs of a concussion.

“He got his bell rung, obviously,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’ll check him tomorrow, obviously monitor him day to day. At this point no further test unless things don’t clear up. Again with contusion, we’ll monitor day to day.”

After conducting what appeared to concussion protocol with the Red Sox’ medical staff, and Farrell, Swihart was removed from the game, being replaced by Ali Solis.

Swihart walked and struck out in his only two at-bats.

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Takeaways from Red Sox’ Grapefruit League game No. 12: Rick Porcello roughed up

03.13.16 at 2:12 pm ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — This one must have been a bit uncomfortable for the Red Sox to watch.

Making his third start this spring training (one of which was a simulated game), Rick Porcello was hit all over the Charlotte Sports Park Sunday morning by the Rays. The Red Sox righty allowed eight runs on 10 hits over three innings.

“The results weren’t very good,” said Porcello after the Red Sox’ 13-5 loss. “I made some mistakes, and they hit it, but really to me, the most important thing is that I was throwing strikes, throwing strikes early. I didn’t feel like I was leaving pitches waist-high or up. It was down. If I have to lower my sights a little bit and get the ball down a little more, that’s what I have to do. But I felt pretty comfortable. My changeup and curveball were much better than my last time out. I don’t like the line, for sure. I don’t like going out there and giving up eight runs and 10 hits, but it’s a work in progress. Clearly I’m not where I want to be yet, but it’s getting there. It doesn’t look like it, but I feel that I’m improving, so that’s the most important thing right now.”

Six of the runs surrendered by Porcello came in the second inning, which included doubles by Hank Conger, Jeff Decker and Kevin Kiermaier.

The Rays added two more in the third inning when Conger took Porcello over the right field wall for a two-run blast.

“I saw improved curveball, decent changeups, fastball elevation – was probably difference today in other games in which he’s pitched,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “When he elevated a fastball, they didn’t miss it. He gets two outs in the second inning. Pretty uncommon you see seven straight hits. In the end, it was overall location with his fastball.”

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Red Sox notes: Team not in ‘enviable spot’ regarding Eduardo Rodriguez making scheduled regular-season start; Travis Shaw getting ready to branch out

03.13.16 at 1:31 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez has been sidelined since injuring his right knee two weeks ago. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The Red Sox are getting closer and closer to facing the reality that Eduardo Rodriguez will not be ready when the regular season kicks off three weeks from Monday.

“We’re not in an enviable spot in terms of being ready for that, but by no means am I ready to say he’s not going to be ready,” Farrell said Sunday morning regarding Rodriguez, who hasn’t joined the team in baseball activities since injuring his right knee two weeks ago. “We’ll get a better read once he gets on a mound for the first time, and then from that point, we can begin to map out a little progression and where that puts us.”

There is still no timetable for when Rodriguez might return to pitching off a mound, although he did throw long toss from 120 feet out Sunday morning.

If Rodriguez isn’t ready to go, the group consisting of Steven Wright, Roenis Elias and Henry Owens remain in the mix to take his spot to begin the regular season. Farrell did note, however, that he doesn’t foresee the injury sidelining the lefty for a prolonged stretch.

“In the event that Eduardo is not ready, we’ll see where that shakes out,” the manager said. “Everything points to this being a short-term situation with Eduardo. If he’s not ready for the start of the year, we would think that shortly thereafter he would join us, but between Elias, Wright, Owens, we feel there’s quality options internally.”

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Yoan Moncada gets another start for Red Sox

03.13.16 at 9:58 am ET
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Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The Red Sox are getting a good look at Yoan Moncada so far this spring.

The 20-year-old, who garnered a $32.5 million signing bonus last March, is getting his second start of the Grapefruit League season, Sunday against the Rays.

Moncada starts at second base against Tampa Bay starter Erasmo Ramirez, hitting ninth. The prospect’s previous appearance came last Wednesday in Bradenton when he went 0-for-2 with a walk against the Pirates.

With Rick Porcello on the mound for the Red Sox, John Farrell’s lineup will be as follows: Mookie Betts RF, Brock Holt SS, David Murphy LF, Travis Shaw 3B, Allen Craig DH, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF, Blake Swihart C, Sam Travis 1B, Yoan Moncada 2B.

In other Red Sox news, the team assigned pitcher William Cuevas to minor league camp. The team now has 55 players in camp, 15 of which are non-roster invitees.

Takeaways from Red Sox’ Grapefruit League game No. 11: Good day for corner infielders

03.12.16 at 5:32 pm ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Travis Shaw isn’t stopping.

The first baseman, who happens to be playing a whole lot of third base, continues to be the star of Red Sox spring training. This time Shaw punctuated his Saturday afternoon with a mammoth three-run home run over the right field bleachers in the midst of what turned out to be an 11-8 Sox loss to Miami at JetBlue Park.

With the homer (his second of the spring), along with a single in his only other at-bat, Shaw is hitting .526 (10-for-19).

While the pitchers upping their games as spring training marches on, Shaw’s production and approach continues to keep up.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot and I don’t really need to change what I’m doing right now,” Shaw said. “My approach feels good. I’m in a good position to hit it feels every time I go to swing. I’m just really comfortable at the plate right now.”

It has also become more apparent that if Shaw continues to go down this road, after launching 13 home runs in basically two months last season, regular season playing time might not be as sparse as he once thought.

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With still no timetable for Eduardo Rodriguez, starting competition gets interesting

03.12.16 at 2:09 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Let’s get this out of the way: John Farrell still doesn’t have a schedule for when Eduardo Rodriguez will return to the mound.

“With Eduardo, he had a good day [Friday],” Farrell said prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Marlins on Saturday. “The angle of the mound has started to be incorporated into his rehab and his drill work. We’re still not targeting a day in which he’s going to throw his first bullpen. It’s getting closer, but we don’t have that exactly right now.”

And as for when Rodriguez might need to return for the rotation not be be reworked, the Sox manager explained, “I don’t want to put an exact number of days on it, but what we can’t do is skip steps along the way. He’s got too much talent, too bright of a future, and we want to take every necessary step, as we would with every other pitcher here in camp.”

So with Farrell not identifying a return to action for Rodriguez — who hasn’t joined in regular workouts since injuring his right knee two weeks ago — the competition a starting spot in the rotation to start the season is getting a bit spicier.

With just more than three weeks to go until Opening Day, all eyes will start locking in on Steven Wright, Henry Owens, Roenis Elias and Brian Johnson.

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