|03.09.16 at 1:32 pm ET|
Koji is throwing in a simulator, I mean simulation game pic.twitter.com/5q07xGHWCN
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) March 9, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — After throwing his 30-pitch simulated game at JetBlue Park Wednesday, Koji Uehara was in good spirits. Why not? He had just put on a fairly impressive display in throwing to big league hitters for the first time since breaking his wrist Aug. 7.
Splits were dropping off the table, and fastballs were resulting in tardy swings.
“Starter,” he joked when asked which he liked better, closing or setting up.
A new role is coming for Uehara, but, so far, it looks like the same stuff is hanging around.
“His pitches had a lot of spin on it. That’s what we were talking about, how much [his splits] looked like a fastball,” said catcher Dan Butler, who joined David Murphy and Ali Solis in hitting off the reliever. “It’s Koji’s split. He’s Koji for a reason. Same old Koji.”
“I think he’s gotten better over the years,” said Murphy, a teammate of Uehara in Texas. “Even though he doesn’t throw that hard, his fastball seems like it’s five mph harder than it normally it is. You don’t see it a long time. There’s a lot of pitchers that might throw 95, but you see it right out of their hand. He’s the opposite. There’s deception, and when you add good location to that, it makes him who he is. He threw me some good split-fingers that looked exactly like fastball.”
The 40-year-old Uehara will now pitch in a Grapefruit League game later this week, and then get back on the kind of regular spring training schedule he’s used to.
Seemingly the only difference now is preparing for not pitching in the ninth inning for the first time since his initial two months with the Red Sox in 2013.
“It’s nothing that I have to change,” Uehara said through a translator. “I was a set-up guy before I was a closer so there’s no adjustment in that aspect.”
|03.09.16 at 10:13 am ET|
Show up to work and find Pedro Martinez and Jerry Remy instructing Roenis Elias. So there you go … pic.twitter.com/3KDOkc80wG
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) March 9, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was not even 9 a.m. Wednesday when a unique sight presented itself on the practice mounds in back of JetBlue Park.
There was Pedro Marintez on the mound, guiding Roenis Elias while NESN broadcaster Jerry Remy stood a few feet away, serving as the Red Sox’ pitcher’s batter.
This was all a product of Elias — one of the more intriguing pitchers in Sox camp (as colleague John Tomase expertly chronicled) — seeking out Martinez.
Just about 20 hours before, Elias had made his first official spring training start for the Red Sox, throwing two shutout innings against the Orioles. Considering he had been slowed down late last week with an ankle injury, it was a positive appearance.
But the lefty knew there was something he wanted to fix. That’s why he turned to Martinez.
“He has an opportunity to become more deceiving, even more deceiving than he is because he’s quite amazing,” Martinez said after the instructional session. “His mechanics can stay more consistent through the strike zone. He can keep his head quieter. There are just little things he can pick up. We went to the video room first. I spoke the pitching coach and asked him if I could work a little bit with him, and he made the adjustment right away.
“He came up to me and asked me if I could pick up something on video and right away I picked it up. He was exposing the ball too early and in a way the hitter could easily pick it up. Just closing up a little bit, and separating on the right spot.”
Remy, whose job it was to give a report on Elias’ progress from a hitter’s perspective, noted the difference was immediate.
So now, with the No. 5 spot in the rotation seemingly in play (with Joe Kelly having the inside edge), along with a chance to make it as a reliever, it will be interesting to see where Elias goes from here.
“He’s very interesting for a lefty,” Martinez. said. “Yesterday he was at 95 [mph] for a guy who was slowed down. He’s got the power, he’s got the feel for pitching, he’s got the curve and a different arm angle. Very interesting.”
|03.08.16 at 5:32 pm ET|
Porcello finishes sim game: 55 pitches, 33 strikes. Kimbrel: 20 pitches, 13 strikes pic.twitter.com/NVQoRtOoX1
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) March 8, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a step in the right direction, even if just a handful of people saw it.
Pitching in a simulated game, Rick Porcello threw 55 pitches (33 strikes) over the equivalent of three innings. The group of opposing batters consisted of Rusney Castillo, Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon a few minor leaguers.
For Porcello who was batting, or even what they did, was of little consequence. What mattered was how his pitches arrived in catcher Blake Swihart’s glove.
“He was able to get it inside and down,” Swihart noted. “A lot of the batters were saying, ‘Man, that thing is coming back on the plate.’ It has good movement right now and is down in the zone.”
“I felt like it was sinking more today,” said Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis when talking about Porcello’s fastball.
Besides the added inning, and lack of crowd or fielders, the biggest difference between this outing and his first spring training test — against the Twins in Hammond Stadium — was the use of all of Porcello’s pitches.
Porcello threw what he estimated at six curveballs, with some changeups and a few two-strike four-seam fastballs, where against the Twins it was just heaters and changeups.
|03.08.16 at 4:35 pm ET|
Christian Vazquez has but one regret on his return to game action Tuesday in a 5-1 victory over the Orioles.
“I was hoping that somebody steals,” Vazquez told reporters in Sarasota.
A throw will have to wait for the rifle-armed catcher, because the Orioles knew better than to test Vazquez, even in his first game back since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.
He caught two innings of left-hander Roenis Elias and grounded out in his only at-bat, sounding notes of relief to have his first game since last March out of the way.
“I’m happy to come back in the field,” Vazquez told reporters. “I’m excited. I was nervous a little bit, but that’s normal. I’m happy to get back, guys.
“That was my goal, to get back to the field and do my things, do my catching things. I’m happy. I’m excited. It’s a long year to get back, but I’m here.”
Vazquez noted that the game “was a little fast” in the early going before he settled into a rhythm. The Red Sox will take things cautiously from here, scheduling his next start for Friday against the Blue Jays. In the interim, he’ll catch a bullpen and face Koji Uehara in live batting practice.
As for where he starts the season, Vazquez isn’t sweating Triple-A Pawtucket vs. the big leagues. He’s just happy to be able to declare: “I’m back.” He was injured almost exactly a year ago, last March 13.
“That’s not my decision,” he said. “Where they put me, I’m going to play and do my 100 percent. It’s not my decision.”
|03.08.16 at 2:03 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Michael Kopech has run into trouble again.
Kopech, one of the Red Sox’ top pitching prospects, fractured his right hand after engaging in an altercation with a teammate recently. The right-handed pitcher could be seen wearing a cast on his throwing hand at JetBlue Park Tuesday.
Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen wrote in a text to WEEI.com that the organization is handling the situation internally while continuing to work through a medical plan.
Later, speaking to reporters in Sarasota, Hazen admitted to being disappointed in the right-hander.
“It was stupid,” Hazen said. “He’s going to have to grow up, obviously, with the things that have happened so far. He’s got a long road to go to get to the big leagues. He obviously has a ton of potential. He’s got a long way to go. These types of things, you don’t want to put more barriers in front of you than playing professional baseball already presents you.”
Kopech, a first-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2014 draft, missed 50 games last season after being suspended for the use of Oxilofrine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Before his suspension, the 6-foot-3 right-hander posted a 2.63 ERA in 15 starts at Single-A Greenville, striking out 70 and walking 27 in 65 innings. He also pitched in Instructional League following the minor league season.
|03.08.16 at 10:48 am ET|
Swihart talked this morning about how he used to drop his glove before getting pitch. Notice subtle change … pic.twitter.com/exFL84RLEd
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) March 8, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — All eyes will be on Christian Vazquez Tuesday as he catches his first spring training game since Tommy John surgery. That’s fair. Vazquez’s spot on the Red Sox will continue to be one of the more intriguing storylines throughout March.
But, as we sit here, the starting catcher for the Red Sox is still Blake Swihart. Perhaps it’s important to take stock of what the team has in the guy who very likely will be teaming up with David Price on Opening Day.
Swihart’s major league clock started well before anybody anticipated last season, exposing him to the reality of the position in sometimes uncomfortable fashion.
But now, the 23-year-old has seemingly transformed into a significantly more advanced backstop than what we witnessed throughout 2015.
“Right now everything catching-wise is pretty much better than it was last year,” he said. “My blocking is on time, my footwork is good, my throwing to second base, I’ve had one guy steal and I threw the heck of it to second. Everything feels really good. Not everything was on time and put together right. But now it is.”
|03.07.16 at 7:38 pm ET|
To those who think a manager having a romantic relationship with a reporter is no big deal, award-winning journalist Jackie MacMullan would like a word.
Appearing on Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday afternoon, the ESPN columnist lit into Red Sox manager John Farrell and former Comcast reporter Jessica Moran for potentially conducting an unprofessional relationship.
“My gut reaction was I was just so darned disappointed,” MacMullan said. “I happen to like both Jess and John Farrell a great deal, and had respect for both of them professionally. But this can’t happen. This can’t go on. The word is ‘unprofessional,’ and there’s no other word for it. And it’s unprofessional on both of their part, not just on Jessica Moran’s part, on the manager of the Boston Red Sox, [too]. And I’m pretty sure he knows that.”
MacMullan took co-host Jerry Thornton to task for not believing Farrell had acted in a way that would compromise his ability to do his job.
“Jerry, let me explain to you why,” she said. “When you’re a journalist, one of the first things you do, the first thing you know when you become a journalist, is you have to be objective. And it’s the hardest thing in the world to do sometimes, because you grow to like people you cover, and by the way, you grow to dislike some of the people you cover. But that’s not supposed to color the way you do your job, because you’re supposed to be objective.
“Now it’s impossible to be objective with someone that you’re in a relationship with, impossible. So let’s start right there.
“Now here’s the other thing you’re forgetting. It isn’t just as simple as John Farrell doing his job. What about all the players in his clubhouse? What if John Farrell pulls one of his pitchers from the starting rotation and relegates him to the bullpen, and it’s Jess Moran’s job to go interview him? Now how on earth is that player going to give Jess Moran any kind of honest answer about how he feels about the manager that she’s having a relationship with? How does that work?”
|03.07.16 at 1:17 pm ET|
That’s why it is perfectly understandable some are wondering if Eduardo Rodriguez will have enough time to get ready for his first start of the regular season.
Rodriguez still hasn’t thrown off a mound since injuring his right knee Feb. 27, with the Red Sox still waiting for the inflammation to totally exit the area.
But Red Sox manager John Farrell explained prior to his team’s game against the Rays Monday that there is still time for Rodriguez to play catch up.
“Based on what we’ve looked at with different scenarios we’re probably 10 days away from that,” said Farrell of the deadline to adjust the rotation due to the lefty’s ailment. “That would be ideal.”
And if Rodriguez isn’t able to go, the Red Sox have their options lined up. Henry Owens, who pitched Monday against the Rays, is in the mix, as are Steven Wright (who is out of options) and Roenis Elias.
“Depth starting is a valuable group for instances or situations that are unforeseen or one like this,” Farrell said. “With Eddie, he’ll actually go through another day of 90 feet of aggressive long-toss, will also incorporate some flat-toss work, so a good portion of that swelling was taken out of there and worked out of the knee, so he’s making solid progress, but we’re still yet to get back on the mound. Can’t overlook the importance of depth starting.
“They’re all competing. At this point can’t say one is ahead of the other. They all have experience, it’s not as if we’re looking at three guys – in one situation we’re looking to bring a guy in – they’ve all at least made that initial transition, Elias with the longer history than the other two.”
|03.06.16 at 5:40 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — While so much focus has been understandably placed on Hanley Ramirez with a first baseman’s glove, some are starting to take notice of what he’s doing with a bat in his hand.
Ramirez notched two more hits in his two at-bats, including an RBI double, to put his Grapefruit League batting average at .500. But it’s not only the end results which are standing out, but his approach in getting them.
Ramirez has continued to implement a swing significantly different than the one he possessed last season, with little to no leg kick, and a finish that keeps both of his hands on the bat.
“Very good. There’s more compact. It’s more of line-drive approach,” explained Red Sox manager John Farrell after his team’s 8-7 win over the Orioles at JetBlue Park. “And I think as you look at the way he finishes with swings, it’s more of a two-handed finish rather than the release of the top hand. It’s enabled him to be more compact. He’s doing an outstanding job thus far. He’s running hard. A stolen base again today when he picks out a little bit of a tendency of the guy on the mound. He’s doing a very good job.”
While Ramirez didn’t get any significant opportunities in the field, he once again put in the extra work at first base the Red Sox were banking on.
He could be found sprinting to Field 1 at 8:30 a.m., along with the other starting infielders, to work with infield instructor Brian Butterfield. The group then transitioned to the main field at JetBlue Park, where more defensive instruction took place.
“I think his range defensively. The body type, not as bulky,” said Farrell when asked how a more athletic frame has helped Ramirez thus far. “The work that he’s doing at first base. We had a pretty extended work day this morning before we went to stretch. He’s doing what we had anticipated or hoped.”
|03.06.16 at 4:14 pm ET|
FORT MYERS — It had been since July 10, 2015 since Clay Buchholz last threw to big league hitters from another team. Sunday, the rust showed.
Making his Grapefruit League 2016 debut, Buchholz struggled through his 42-pitch outing, allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits while walking three and fanning a pair.
After the start, there was predictably no panic, particularly since Buchholz limited himself to throwing just fastballs and changeups.
“I felt like that was one of the first times I’ve been out there in eight months or so,” Buchholz said. “Went out there knowing I was just going to be throwing fastball, changeups today, which made it a little bit difficult because I set up a couple of guys for a curveball or cutter at points and I was only able to make those two pitches, so I tried to make those two pitches a little bit too good. I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good, my body felt good. Just missed location with pitches, but for the most part I felt like I was throwing the ball down, I was more down than up, I felt like I got squeezed a little bit too, it’s spring training, other than that everything felt good.”
Buchholz, who is slated to pitch next Friday, was forced to be taken out by Red Sox manager John Farrell before even completing his scheduled two innings.
It wasn’t how the starter envisioned getting out of the gate, particularly after adjusting his offseason workout program. (He didn’t throw a bullpen session prior to arriving in Florida.)
“I didn’t even know what my pitch count was today going out today,” Buchholz said. “Everybody knows that what we’re trying to do out here is to work on stuff and face some hitters. Other than facing our guys it’s the first opponent hitter i’ve faced in awhile. It felt good to get back out there. That’s what bullpen sessions are for. Got to get back to work tomorrow.”
Buchholz made five official spring training starts in 2015, managing a 2.84 ERA, striking out 22 and walking four.
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