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Rick Porcello off to best start of career following second straight win over Blue Jays

04.15.16 at 11:33 pm ET
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Rick Porcello allowed three runs on two hits in the Red Sox' win over the Blue Jays. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello allowed three runs on two hits in the Red Sox’ win over the Blue Jays. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

This was exactly the start to the season Rick Porcello needed.

Following a disappointing first season in Boston last year where he went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA, Porcello has started this season 2-0 for the first time in his career.

Porcello was exactly the pitcher the Red Sox inked to a four-year, $82.5 million contract Friday night in the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays.

The right-hander went 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on two hits while walking a batter and striking out eight. The two hits he allowed were both home runs to Edwin Encarnacion — one in the second inning and then a two-run shot in the seventh.

It may have also helped that Friday was the return of Christian Vazquez behind the plate, as he is one of the best young defensive catchers in the game.

“It was a good win for us,” Porcello said. “Good way to open up the series. Keeping guys off base, trying to eliminate big innings and multiple runners on the bases. I can’t say enough about the job Christian did back there blocking balls, calling the game — he was tremendous.”

After Encarnacion’s first home run of the game in the second inning followed by a hit-by-pitch, Porcello settled in nicely retiring 13 straight batters from the second to the sixth innings. It also may have helped the Red Sox jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead.

“We were mixing the ball around,” Porcello said. “Sinker was working well and we were able to get some ground balls.”

His sinker was working so well that he threw it 49 times out of his 100 total pitches.

Friday night was the second straight game Porcello was matched up against the Blue Jays as he allowed four runs over six innings last Saturday in Toronto — an 8-4 win.

Manager John Farrell was impressed with how Porcello attacked the Toronto hitters.

“He did a really nice job of throwing his fastball to both sides of the plate,” Farrell said. “Against a powerful right-handed hitting lineup, I thought he pitched in effectively. He used enough secondary pitches to set up his fastball. He and [Vazquez] hooked up well and the execution on Rick’s part was very, very good here tonight.”

With the rocky start for the Red Sox’ starting rotation overall, Porcello’s start to the season couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Closing Time: Rick Porcello, Christian Vazquez lead Red Sox over Blue Jays

04.15.16 at 10:13 pm ET
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Rick Porcello pitched very well Friday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello pitched very well Friday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Whether it was the presence of Christian Vazquez or not, it seems like the Red Sox are gaining some momentum.

For the second straight game, the Red Sox got a decent start from their starting pitcher as Friday it was Rick Porcello who went 6 1/3 innings to earn the win in the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays. It was the second straight win for the Red Sox.

Porcello finished the game going 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on two hits (both Edwin Encarnacion home runs), while walking one, hitting two and striking out eight.

The Red Sox scored early allowing Porcello to settle in with a lead. They scored three times in the first inning starting with a David Ortiz RBI double off the top of the wall in dead-center. After Hanley Ramirez reached via a passed ball on a strikeout, Travis Shaw drove in both Ortiz and Ramirez with a two-RBI double of his own.

They tacked on another run in the second inning on a Mookie Betts RBI single.

Porcello gave up his second home run of the game to Encarnacion in the seventh with a runner on. He struck out the next batter and then was lifted at 100 pitches.

Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel (save) in a shaky ninth closed the game out for the Red Sox in relief of Porcello.

Closing Time note

The Red Sox have now not been shutout at home in 60 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the majors. It dates back to June 4 of last year.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ win:

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Dave Dombrowski details why Red Sox sent Rusney Castillo to minors, his future

04.15.16 at 6:03 pm ET
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The Red Sox optioned Rusney Castillo to Triple-A on Wednesday. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox optioned Rusney Castillo to Triple-A on Wednesday. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

The entire Rusney Castillo situation this season has been a confusing one.

At the end of spring training, the Red Sox opted to have Castillo on their Opening Day roster over veteran outfielder David Murphy, so Murphy opted out of his contract. There was some skepticism as to why the team went with Castillo as opposed to having him start in Triple-A and getting every day at-bats, which he desperately needs at this stage of his development.

Then, after getting just four at-bats through the first eight games of the season, the Red Sox sent him back down to Triple-A Pawtucket after Wednesday’s game. Why did he even start with the Red Sox in the first place?

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski explained the situation Friday.

“I think really what is difficult — and I have tried to explain without going into, because I am not going to tell you we’re thinking about optioning somebody out because then everyone is going to run to the player and say we’re thinking of optioning him out — you’re roster is a fluid situation and especially your bench guys at times,” Dombrowski said. “For us, we were comfortable with him not starting off playing every single day, but then it was a situation, the more Brock [Holt] played left and has done such a good job, so the combination of Brock and Chris Young out there — and of course we haven’t faced a left-handed starter yet so there’s been no starts available in that role that we just thought that gives us the best chance to win right now and to stay with that. Rusney is sitting there, so let’s get him out and start playing. That is really what it came down to.

“But in the beginning of the year when you think about it, how many games has Pawtucket played? A limited number of games — seven, eight. So we didn’t think it would hurt him to come up here and be part of what we had going on and now we’re in a situation of where we say, ‘OK, let’s have him go out and get some at-bats.'”

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Dave Dombrowski: ‘Great deal going on’ in Pablo Sandoval’s left shoulder

04.15.16 at 5:23 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

The Pablo Sandoval saga drags on.

Speaking before the Red Sox’ series opening game against the Blue Jays, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said an MRI taken Thursday revealed there was ‘a great deal going on’ in Sandoval’s left shoulder.

Dombrowski wouldn’t reveal any specifics in regards to the findings, but did reveal that Sandoval would be receiving a second opinion with Dr. James Andrews on Monday.

“I’m not going to speculate on anything, but I won’t rule out anything, either,” said Dombrowski when asked if surgery was a possibility.

As for the Yahoo! Sports report that Sandoval wanted to play every day or change organizations, Dombrowski said that it hadn’t been presented to him in that sort of cut-and-dried manner.

“It’s never been termed to me that way,” Dombrowski said. “I know he wants to play every day, but he also understands the situation.”

Sandoval was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday after revealing that he was having trouble lifting his left arm.

(Here is the play that Sandoval possibly aggravated his left shoulder on)

Why Red Sox are adding outfield to Blake Swihart’s skill set

04.15.16 at 5:21 pm ET
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Blake Swihart can now add the outfield to his list of positions. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart can now add the outfield to his list of positions. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox have two very good young catchers in Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez. But, thinking towards the future, it’s impossible to have both players play every day behind the plate.

This is why on the day Swihart was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for Vazquez’s recall, the Red Sox revealed their long-term plan with their two prized catchers.

“As we look towards the future, and even as time goes on, we would like Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart to both be part of our club,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “They are both not going to be every day catchers with our team. [Swihart] is more athletic. He’s a converted catcher. We think he could make a conversion to another position — even on a part-time basis so we can keep his bat in the lineup.”

Swihart will take fly balls in left field with Pawtucket as the Red Sox would like him to add outfield to his skill set. In addition to taking fly balls in the outfield, he will still play catcher as it was noted they are an injury away of having him come back to Boston as a catcher. It was also revealed between the outfield, catcher and DH, Swihart will play every day in Triple-A.

Vazquez is 25 years old, while Swihart is 24 so both are young and have plenty of room to grow.

This long-term plan didn’t come out of no where as these discussions began towards the end of spring training, with Swihart starting shagging fly balls in the outfield. Some thought Swihart would be better suited for first base, but manager John Farrell said the organization viewed the outfield being the most “viable.”

“His athleticism will take over,” Farrell said of Swihart playing the outfield. “He and I had a couple of conversations in spring training about this. He would shag in left field during BP. Confident that through repetition, much like we have talked about with him behind the plate, which is a much more difficult task then playing a major league caliber left field. That will take time. We’ve come to know Blake as not only an upfront guy, but is a smart athletic player who is going to be committed to the work.”

“Bottom line, we see both (Vazquez and Swihart) coexisting on this roster, really in the same lineup on a given day,” Farrell added. “We know [Swihart is] still going to be catching games.”

With the long-term plan in mind and the Red Sox showing commitment to both players, now is the perfect time to execute it with Vazquez 100 percent healthy, but any time a player changes positions it certainly bears watching.

Stay tuned.

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Christian Vazquez feeling ‘100 percent’ going into 2016 big league debut

04.15.16 at 3:56 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez will make his 2016 major league debut Friday night. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez will make his 2016 major league debut Friday night. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

It’s been a longtime coming for catcher Christian Vazquez.

The catcher missed the entire 2015 season because of Tommy John surgery at the end of the spring last year. Vazquez noted he was 100 percent to end the spring and could have started with the Red Sox, but the team opted to have him start the year in Triple-A Pawtucket.

He played in five games and hit .468 at the plate before being recalled prior to Friday’s game with the Blue Jays. Blake Swihart started the year with the big league team and had a few issues defensively and ultimately was sent back down to Triple-A as the corresponding move for Vazquez being recalled.

“I’m excited. I’m here for a reason to help the team,” Vazquez said prior to Friday’s game. “Like I said, the pitching staff. I’m happy to be back.”

The hope is Vazquez’s game-calling ability will help with a starting rotation that has an ERA of 6.86 entering Friday, the worst in the American League.

“I’m happy. I’m here to help the team win and my pitching staff here,” he said.

During his week with Pawtucket he was able to work on every part of his game and is excited to join the big league team for the first time since 2014. He also added his family will be at Fenway Park Friday night.

“I was doing everything — my at-bats, my arm strength is back,” he said. “Overall, I was working on everything.”

The Red Sox are wasting no time as he will start Friday night and catch starter Rick Porcello.

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Red Sox lineup: Christian Vazquez catches Rick Porcello

04.15.16 at 3:22 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

The Red Sox are wasting no time getting catcher Christian Vazquez into the lineup.

After being recalled earlier in the day, Vazquez will get the start behind the plate catching Red Sox starter Rick Porcello. He was hitting .462 in five games with the PawSox.

Other than that, it’s a standard lineup with Travis Shaw at third base and Brock Holt in left field as the Red Sox go up against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Here is the complete Red Sox lineup:

Mookie Betts, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Brock Holt, LF
Christian Vazquez, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Rick Porcello, RHP

For an extensive look at the matchups, click here.

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Red Sox option C Blake Swihart to Triple-A Pawtucket, INF Marco Hernandez recalled

04.15.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

The Red Sox made a few moves prior to Friday’s game.

In addition to outfielder Rusney Castillo being optioned to Triple-A Pawticket after Wednesday’s game, catcher Blake Swihart has also been sent down. To take their places on the roster, catcher Christian Vazquez and infielder Marco Hernandez have been recalled.

Vazquez spent the first week of the minor league season with the PawSox working his way back from Tommy John surgery last season. The Red Sox would have had three catchers on their roster if they didn’t send Swihart down. Him being in Pawtucket will give him everyday playing time that he wouldn’t get with the Red Sox, which is the best thing for him at this point as he continues to develop as a catcher.

Swihart was 5-for-18 at the plate in six games this season. Vazquez will start behind the plate Friday night catching Rick Porcello.

Hernandez gives the Red Sox an utility infielder they didn’t have to start the season. He was the player to be named in the Felix Doubront trade with the Cubs in 2014.

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

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You might be surprised which former Red Sox Travis Shaw is trying to emulate

04.15.16 at 1:03 pm ET
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Travis Shaw (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Travis Shaw (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Travis Shaw is a pretty popular player these days.

The new Red Sox starting third baseman has played nearly flawless defense, while hitting .292 with an .810 OPS through the first eight games.

So when he reveals that his favorite player growing up was Yankee Alex Rodriguez, Red Sox followers will be happy to give the almost-26-year-old (his birthday is Saturday) a pass.

And baseball-following folks in New England will also be OK when Shaw identifies which major league player has had the biggest influence on the way he swings the bat — former Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez.

“Approach-wise, it probably started my junior year of college,” said Shaw of his infatuation with Gonzalez’s swing. “I kind of started thinking more along the lines of trying to hit with power, driving it into the left-center field gap. And then in Double-A, that’s when my leg kick started. With that leg kick, and the way I placed my hands, I know I watched a ton of video on him before my leg kick … To me, how calm my leg kick is, and how early I start, that was something I really focused on when watching him. It seemed like he was so calm, calm, calm with his swing. It took a couple of years for it to develop into that.”

While Gonzalez’s exit out of Boston in August, 2012 tarnished the perception of the first baseman in these parts, Shaw points to the one full season Gonzalez had in Boston as what he zeroes in on.

In 159 games in 2011, Gonzalez had a monster year, hitting .337 with a .957 OPS. And while the 27 home runs seemed plenty for the corner infielder, it was the doubles that stood out.

“If you watched him hit at Fenway, he hit like [45] doubles. That’s what I want to do,” Shaw said. “Not so much home runs, but more along the lines of 30 or 40 doubles.”

Considering Gonzalez’s continued success, having totaled an .846 OPS in a major-league-best 3,388 plate appearances since the beginning of ’11, it probably isn’t a bad idea for Shaw to try and emulate the lefty hitter. (For what it’s worth, Gonzalez is off to another solid start, hitting .375 with a .972 OPS after 10 games.)

“He’s just a guy he’s always looked at,” said Shaw of Gonzalez. “That’s what I’m trying for.”

Pablo Sandoval’s former trainer on OM&F: ‘I’m sad for him that things have slid to this point’

04.15.16 at 12:16 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval's weight continues to be an issue in Boston. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval’s weight continues to be an issue in Boston. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Personal trainer Ethan Banning, who worked with Pablo Sandoval for two years, checked in with Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Friday to discuss the third baseman’s fall from grace in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

Banning, the owner of Triple Threat Performance in Phoenix, was quoted in a Boston Herald story as saying Sandoval “needs to have somebody like me holding his hand” to ensure that Sandoval limits his eating. The second-year Red Sox player showed up overweight to spring training and lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw. After going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in the first week of the season, the 29-year-old was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a shoulder issue.

“I’m sad for him that things have slid to this point,” Banning said. “The great thing about it is when bad things happen in life as athletes I think it’s an opportunity for to grow and learn. And I think he’ll do that. But [I] just wonder when it’s going to happen.”

Banning started working with Sandoval in November 2010, after the player was benched by the Giants in the World Series and warned he needed to stay in better shape. Their relationship ended in spring training 2012, shortly after Sandoval signed a three-year, $17 million contract with San Francisco — despite the fact that Sandoval was an All-Star in 2011 and ’12. Banning said he has spoken with Sandoval’s brother and now-former agency since they parted ways, but the player has not returned.

Red Sox owner John Henry claimed that Sandoval tested out at 17 percent body fat shortly before spring training, but that claim was widely questioned.

“It was certainly misleading at the very least,” Banning said. “If he was 17 percent body fat, in the accurate sense of it, I’m not sure what they were measuring with.

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