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Takeaways from Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener

03.02.16 at 5:24 pm ET
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Henry Owens struck out five in two innings Wednesday ( Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Henry Owens struck out five in two innings Wednesday. ( Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — No injuries. Some optimism.

That’s all the Red Sox could ask for in their Grapefruit League opener on Wednesday afternoon against the Twins at JetBlue Park. The end result was a 7-4 loss for the Sox, but the performance of starter Henry Owens, and a select group of position players, proved to be the priority.

Owens pitched just two innings, but struck out five and got out of a bases-loaded jam after some early control issues.

The lefty got swings and misses from Twins hitters primarily by setting up what appeared to be an improved fastball with his slow curve.

“I thought Henry threw a number of quality pitches,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “The thing that stands out is his poise, even when there were multiple men in scoring position. First time out, I thought he accomplished a number of things. That was the use of all three pitches, but the thing that stood out was how he kept those innings from further damage being created. Mound presence and poise I thought was very good.”

Another candidate for the fifth starter spot, Brian Johnson, also made an appearance, although he wasn’t able to come out of it unscathed.

Pitching for the first time since having his season cut short with an elbow issue last August, Johnson gave up two runs no two hits over 1 2/3 innings. Yet, even with the baserunners, the southpaw came away all smiles.

“I think I came off the mound and hugged our Triple-A pitching coach Bob Kipper,” Johnson said. “I said, ‘I felt like myself again.’ He just said, it looked like night and day, the last time I saw you to this time. It looked like myself.”

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David Murphy was truly baffled he ended up with minor league deal

03.02.16 at 3:15 pm ET
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David Murphy

David Murphy

FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Murphy had been through free agency once before, having to “settle” for a two-year, $12 million deal (that included a $7 million team option) with Cleveland after a subpar 2013 campaign with Texas.

That time around, he signed in late November, not having to worry about the roller coaster that can be waiting out free agency.

But nothing could have prepared Murphy for what he experienced this time around.

“No. Not at all,” said the 34-year-old when asked if he ever imagined he would have to settle for a minor-league deal, which is exactly what he recently signed with the Red Sox. “I kind of thought it was 50-50 my option would be picked up in L.A. After it got turned down I was excited.

“Coming off a pretty decent year I thought I would get at least a one-year deal, but it never came close.”

Murphy experienced what many veteran outfielders have gone through (and, in some cases continue to go through) this year. His numbers in ’15 were solid — hitting .283 with a .789 OPS in a combined 132 games with Cleveland and the Angels. But that wasn’t enough to get even a hint of a guaranteed deal.

“It definitely surprised me,” he said of the offseason. “I knew that I’m older and I was expecting a one-year deal. I was expecting the dominoes to fall before I really got some phone calls. Well, for one thing it took forever for the dominoes to fall, and, two, even when they did, the interest wasn’t what I expected. I don’t really know what to point to in terms as to why things unfolded the way they did. I don’t know if it was just a coincidence, if it was a bad year to be a free agent or if things are changing in Major League Baseball. I think only time will tell. At the end of the day, there’s nothing anybody can do about it. As a player you can’t control it. Things unfolded differently than I expected. Maybe I had some frustration, but I’m here, I’m happy to be here and I’m excited to be on the field regardless of how it happened. I’m excited to move forward.

“I talked to guys here and there. There was kind of the same level of confusion across the board. It’s the whole baseball cliché, ‘Control what you can control.’ That’s usually during the season, and you’re not used to having to apply to a situation like this. But I guess in a situation like this, we have to.”

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Have Red Sox uncovered good Carlos Marmol?

03.02.16 at 2:21 pm ET
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Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So far, the Carlos Marmol experiment is going swimmingly, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

The former Cubs closer, who the Red Sox signed to a minor league deal, was brought to camp with the idea of altering his arm slot to where it was back in 2011. It was a venture in large part pushed along by director of pitching analysis and development Red Sox Brian Bannister.

And even though Marmol hasn’t pitched in a spring training game, the reliever’s work on the back fields has drawn interest.

“Two days ago was a pretty sizeable step forward in getting back to the delivery he had when he was with the Cubs,” Farrell said. “The action to his stuff is showing signs of what it was when he was with the Cubs, three or four years ago and that is a greater sink, more sweep to his slider, so he’s encouraged by it. We’re not there yet but I think he and Carl [Willis] had a kind of breakthrough moment a couple days ago.”

Marmol agreed.

“It’s felt like 2011,” he said.

The 33-year-old last pitched in the major leagues for the 2014 Marlins, having spent last season with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus. The challenge for Marmol has long been with his command, which has often negated an above-average fastball.

“Going back to his original delivery where he has kind of migrated to kind of a higher arm slot, more upright delivery,” Farrell said. “Now we’re getting a little more bend at the waste and the arm slot drops because of that bending at the waste. I think the most encouraging thing is the action we’re seeing in the pitches.”

For more on Marmol trying to resurrect his career, click here to read John Tomase’s column.

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John Farrell: Eduardo Rodriguez should be ready to start year on time

03.02.16 at 10:56 am ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez is hopeful for a quick return. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The news continues to be more good than bad when it comes to Eduardo Rodriguez’s injury.

The lefty, who experienced a patellar subluxation on his right knee during workouts Saturday, was deemed in limbo until the team could evaluate the injury 72 hours after the incident. Now, Red Sox manager John Farrell suggested Rodriguez is trending toward returning sooner rather than later.

“Eduardo is improving,” Farrell said prior to the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against the Twins at JetBlue Park Wednesday. “There is still a little bit of swelling in the knee, but improving to the point where we will put a ball in his hand today and he’ll being a throwing program on flat ground. It will be shortened distance, but we feel he has made enough progress to keep his arm moving and keep his arm in shape given the status of where he’s at.

“The fact that he’s improving, and the swelling is diminishing, is an obvious positive sign. We really didn’t set our sights on any one thing specifically at that 72-hour mark. But the fact we can put a ball in his hand, that’s a positive. We’re a little bit open-ended as for what those three days were going to give us.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of Farrell’s analysis of the situation is that he believes the injury won’t put Rodriguez in jeopardy when it comes to making his first scheduled start in the regular season.

“We think he’ll be ready to start the year, but I have to temper that with he’ll be out there when he’s out of danger,” the manager said. “We don’t want to rush it to the point where you’re looking at his landing leg. That has to be full strength to support the weight, the momentum coming down the mound when he’s ready to get on the mound. So there’s no time-frame for that first bullpen to happen, but we’re still hopeful he’ll be ready for the start of the year.”

When asked about if the team would have to juggle its planned rotation to begin the year, Farrell added, “Not in the moment. We still have plenty of time if we have to adjust going deeper into camp. … Our plan is for Eduardo to join us once we break camp here, but we’ll adjust if we have to.”

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Ruben Amaro reflects on first game coaching first base he last did it, 26 years ago

03.02.16 at 9:46 am ET
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Ruben Amaro

Ruben Amaro

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was just an exhibition game against a college team, but for Ruben Amaro the exercise was pretty important … and somewhat bizarre.

For the first time since filling in as a Double-A player in Midland, Texas, Amaro manned the first base coaching box, Monday. Considering that is where his home will be for the upcoming season, taking any steps to getting used to the spot is of value.

“It was really neat, running on the field,” said Amaro, who only coached first in Midland due to stint on the disabled list with a hand injury. “I was running on the field and thought that I better not fall down. It was cool. For me, I’m a very routine oriented guy, so I’m trying to find my routine and just get my act together. It’s fun. I’m sure I’ll make plenty of mistakes, so hopefully I’ll iron them out.

“Just making sure the players are aware of the situations, and staying on Butter as far as situations and that sort of things. Just making sure the players are informed and ready, peaking in in case anything happening and making sure players don’t miss any sign. I’m a little bit of a backup.”

One of the things that has evolved in the first base coaching box is an added responsibility — holding on to the baserunners’ protective gear.

Former Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler used to recall a spring training game where he was faced with a unique dilemma. With the bases loaded, Beyeler was already weighed down with arms and legs full of pads and guard, and then had to look down into the batters box where a heavily padded Daniel Nava was stepping in. “I’m thinking please don’t walk because I’ll have no place to put that stuff,” Beyeler joked.

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Henry Owens gets start for Red Sox in Grapefruit League opener

03.02.16 at 9:19 am ET
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Henry Owens

Henry Owens

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Henry Owens vs. Phil Hughes.

There you have the starting pitchers for the first official day of the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League schedule.

Owens — who will be followed by Brian Johnson, Carson Smith, Tommy Layne, Anthony Varvaro, Robbie Ross and Noe Ramirez — is trying to keep himself in the conversation for the No. 5 starter. His chief competition, Joe Kelly, is slated to throw Friday.

“This year I truly believe there’€™s a spot up for grabs, and everyone else knows that so we’€™ll be out there competing against each other,” Owens told WEEI.com earlier in camp.

Hughes, who was the Twins Opening Day starter a year ago but struggled through a 11-9, 4.40 ERA, will be followed by Trevor May, Dan Runzler, Buddy Boshers, Mike Strog, Michael Tonkin and Nick Burdi. (You’re going to have to Google those guys yourself.)

As for the Red Sox lineup in the JetBlue Park tilt, it will be as follows: Mookie Betts CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Xander Bogaerts SS, Hanley Ramirez 1B, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Chris Young LF, Blake Swihart C, Allen Craig DH, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF.

Prior to batting practice, the Red Sox participated in domestic violence education.

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Live chat with Rob Bradford during Red Sox vs. Twins, 1 p.m.

03.02.16 at 8:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Join Rob Bradford for a live chat during the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against the Twins at JetBlue Park. Talk all things Sox as Henry Owens gets the start, with Bradford supplying updates as the first few innings unfold. The fun (and game) begins at 1 p.m. …

Live Blog Red Sox vs. Twins, live chat
 

What Aroldis Chapman’s 30-game suspension might mean to Red Sox

03.01.16 at 5:05 pm ET
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Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The already intriguing American League East just got a little more unpredictable … at least for the first month of the regular season.

Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman has been suspended 30 games for domestic violence, a penalty that came down from commissioner Rob Manfred Tuesday and will not be appealed by the reliever.

In a statement, Chapman wrote, “I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry.” He adds that there the decision not to appeal was, “to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family.” (h/t MLB Trade Rumors).

So, what does this mean for the Red Sox?

The Yankees and Sox are slated to play two series during Chapman’s suspension, facing off for a three-game set at Fenway Park from April 29-May 1, and then in Yankee Stadium for the final three games of the reliever’s penalty a week later.

In the bigger picture, it puts the Yankees starting on an outside lane in what figures to be a very competitive A.L. East.

New York kicks off its schedule with three series against teams considered to be competitive in their respective divisions — Houston, Detroit and Toronto. The Yankees then play a nine-game homestand vs. the Mariners, Athletics and Rays, before hitting the road to play Texas and the Sox.

As for the Red Sox, 16 of their first 26 games (stretching through May 1) are against division foes.

David Murphy describes ‘surreal’ return to Red Sox, nearly 10 years after leaving

03.01.16 at 10:08 am ET
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David Murphy

David Murphy

FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Murphy can come home again.

The former Red Sox outfielder, drafted with the first pick of Theo Epstein’s GM career, officially joined Red Sox camp on Tuesday after signing a minor league deal.

Murphy, 34, was the team’s first-round pick (No. 17 overall) in the 2003 draft out of Baylor and has gone on to a productive 10-year career since being traded to the Rangers for reliever Eric Gagne in 2007. He entered a clubhouse that included a couple of minor league teammates (Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez), as well as veteran slugger David Ortiz.

“It’s really surreal,” Murphy said. “When we first had contact with the Red Sox, there was just a lot of good feelings. There’s a lot of sentimental feelings, even if I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with the Red Sox at the big league level — all my minor league memories through just random things.

“My oldest daughter was born in Boston when I was playing in Pawtucket. Being down here, my wife and I got engaged during spring training in Fort Myers in 2004. Just a lot of great on-field memories with the guys. Dustin’s still here. Hanley. Two guys I played with through the minor leagues. David Ortiz is still here. Various members of the training staff, coaching staff. In a lot of ways, it’s sort of a homecoming. Happy to be back.”

Murphy was surprised to remain unsigned this late in camp. The Angels declined his $7 million option after he hit .283 with a .739 OPS last year. For his career, the left-handed hitter owns a .795 OPS against right-handed pitching and is capable of playing both corner outfield spots, as well as center in a pinch.

“It was kind of the perfect storm,” Murphy said. “I know that I’m getting older. I know that the game is being analyzed differently now in terms of numbers and sabermetrics. I don’t know if that played into it. I know that there was a lot of good free agents out there on the market this year. I don’t know if I’m going to point to one thing.

“I’ve thought it over, because when my option got turned down by the Angels in early November, first of all I thought there might be a decent chance that I would go back, and then after it got turned down, there wasn’t one bit of thought in my head that said I might have to accept a minor league deal late in the offseason. I wasn’t expecting to get a multi-year deal, but I was expecting to get a major league deal somewhere in the one-year at, I didn’t know exactly what [the money] was going to be.”

As was the case a decade ago when he made his big league debut, Murphy just hopes the Red Sox give him a chance.

“They said there could be opportunity,” Murphy said. “A lot of it is going to be on my end, working hard and showing them I’m in shape, having a good spring, and we’ll see what happens.”

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How David Ortiz took page out of Larry Bird’s book to prolong career

02.29.16 at 4:38 pm ET
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David Ortiz has a plan on how to remain healthy for his final major league season. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

David Ortiz has a plan on how to remain healthy for his final major league season. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Remember the doubts that surrounded David Ortiz after experiencing that career-threatening Achilles tendon injury in 2012?

This was a guy who sat out a good chunk of the following spring training while trying to find a routine that might help him manage the ailment. And now, three years later?

“If I would be playing for another year or two, I would have no problem with that,” said Ortiz, dismissing any notion that his Achilles was a consideration when announcing his retirement after the 2016 season. “I’ve learned how to put up with it.”

For that, he credits the guy who prolonged Larry Bird’s career — Red Sox director of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek.

“Probably not,” said Ortiz when asked if he would still be playing if Dyrek didn’t come along in ’13. “He has helped me out a lot, since Day 1. Since Day 1, he has been right on.

“It probably would have been a different story.”

The soreness in the Achilles hasn’t gone away, routinely cropping up throughout the last few seasons. But what Dyrek has helped Ortiz do is learn how to remain on the field.

A recent example of that is the schedule Ortiz is going through now, with the designated hitter not slated to see his first spring training at-bats until Friday. The first goal is to get around 50 spring training plate appearances. The second? Be available from Opening Day until the season’s last pitch, has has been the case the last three seasons.

“I keep on taking care of myself and do things differently, not only because of baseball but because of life,” said Ortiz, who saw action in 146 games last season. “You have to do things right.”

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