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Monday’s Red Sox-Phillies matchups: Clay Buchholz vs. Cole Hamels

04.06.15 at 8:24 am ET
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The Red Sox will kick off a 2015 season full of optimism by sending Clay Buchholz to the mound to face Cole Hamels.

There have been many questions throughout spring training surrounding Boston’s starting rotation, specifically who would serve as the ace of the staff. For the start of the season at least, Buchholz will try to fill that role. Buchholz, who finished last season with an 8-11 record, a 5.34 ERA and a 1.386 WHIP, had a decent spring training but will need to improve to truly become an MLB ace. This spring he made five starts, going 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.632 WHIP. The two most promising stats for Buchholz in preseason play are strikeouts per nine innings (10.1) and walks per nine innings (1.9), both of which are much better than any he has posted in his career.

In Buchholz’ last spring start on Wednesday, he threw four shutout innings against the Twins, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out four in a game that ended in a 4-4 tie. Buchholz left the game with a 1-0 lead, but Minnesota scored three off of Alexi Ogando in the fifth. The Sox were able to score three in the top of the ninth, but the Twins scored one in their half to tie the game.

“€œI felt like the movement on each pitch was more defined today,”€ Buchholz told reporters after the start. “All the mis-hits they hit were basically sinker/cutters. Changeup. There was not a whole lot of hard contact. That’€™€™s sort of what you want when you’€™€™re out there, is contact. I think the hardest contact was Torii [Hunter]’€™€™s double play ball. Overall, I felt really good with everything.’€”

Monday will be Buchholz’ first career appearance against Philadelphia.

Buchholz will be matched up opposite Hamels, who has been in the headlines for reasons other than his pitching recently. Hamels has been the center point of several trade rumors in Philadelphia, most notably one that involved him potentially headming to Boston. In February Hamels told USA Today, “I just want to win. … And I know it’s not going to happen here.”

Since then, there has been growing consensus that the veteran lefty will not be in Philly much longer. Recently, ESPN analyst Buster Olney told Middays with MFB, “‘€œI have no doubt that Cole Hamels will be traded by July 31.” However, despite the rumors, Hamels has been named the Phillies’ Opening Day starter.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Cole Hamels, Red Sox,

Red Sox, Rick Porcello agree not to talk contract during season

04.05.15 at 9:26 pm ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

PHILADELPHIA — While the announcement that Jon Lester and the Red Sox would not be negotiating a contract during the 2014 season was presented in a fairly formal fashion a year ago, the same can’t be said regarding similar news involving Rick Porcello and his new team.

Porcello confirmed to WEEI.com that he has told the Red Sox he prefers not to talk contract during the upcoming regular season. A team source confirmed that the organization has agreed that negotiations should wait until season’s end.

“I don’€™t want any distractions when we start the season,” the pitcher said. “I just want to focus on pitching.”

While Porcello preferred not to comment on if contract talks had been ongoing throughout spring training, a major league source did confirm there had been some discussions throughout March. While it isn’t known if an offer was made by the club, the source did confirm that recent dialogue led to a better understanding of where each side stood.

Porcello will be eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, having agreed to one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Red Sox this past offseason (in what would have been his final year of arbitration eligibility).

The righty will be only 27 years old when the first year of his new contract begins, offering an interesting option for teams ready to invest in what figures to be a pitching-rich free agent market. Wei-Yen Chen, Johnny Cueto, David Price, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmerman, Jeff Samardzija, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and possibly Zack Greinke (he can opt-out of his final three seasons) are all pitchers slated to become free agents after the ’15 season.

A quick poll of a few baseball executives and agents suggests if Porcello repeats his 2014 season (15-13, 3.43 ERA, 204.2 innings) the righty might be in line for a deal worth 5-6 years at about $18 million per season.

Despite the intrigue that surround Porcello’s future, the pitcher’s focus has continues to remain unwavering.

“Whether it’€™s been the past couple of years, where trade talks have surrounded me in Detroit, or coming into the final season of a contract, at this point I think I have a better handle of how to just block that stuff out and focus on the things in front of me, things that I can control,” he said. “That’€™s how I’€™ve felt all spring. Just coming in and getting my work done. I don’€™t feel like there is any added pressure. The pressure that I feel is to win for my teammates and for this organization. That’€™s what I’€™m focused on, putting my best foot forward here and doing what I need to do to prepare for a championship caliber season with everybody else in this clubhouse.”

Porcello has impressed his new team to date, both with his spring training performance and clubhouse presence. He finished his Grapefruit League schedule with a 2.57 ERA over four official outings, striking out 11 and walking three in 14 innings.

The righty is scheduled to pitch in the Red Sox’ second game of the season, Wednesday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“There are still some things I want to do better, especially when I get runners on base, slowing myself down and slowing the game down a little better than I have,” he said. “That’€™s something I’€™m constantly reminding myself. Other than that I feel good, ready to start.”

David Ortiz, and not Mike Napoli, gets Opening Day start at first base

04.05.15 at 4:23 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — David Ortiz, and not Mike Napoli, will open the Red Sox season at first base on Monday against the Phillies.

Manager John Farrell said it wasn’t an easy decision after Napoli‘s monster spring (.400-6-11-1.342).

“Well, one of the disadvantages that we have is that coming into a National League ballpark, we’re built as an American League club, and two of our primary power hitters occupy that same position — first base,” Farrell said on Sunday. “Mike has had a very, very good spring trainng. He’s certainly available to us. It’s not like we’re absent of him completely. But both guys will play a significant role in this series.”

With left-hander Cole Hamels on the mound for the Phillies, there had been some thought that Napoli would get the start. But Ortiz is a franchise icon, and those generally don’t get benched on Opening Day, even if they hit just .222 this spring.

Ortiz, it should be noted, is 0 for 3 a strikeout against Hamels, while Napoli is 0 for 2 with a pair of punchouts.

Ortiz didn’t see any action at first base this spring, but it’s not like he’s new to the position. He has played 268 games there, including five last year, during which he hit .158 (3 for 19) with a homer and five RBIs.

For Red Sox to have success in April, offense will need to lead the way

04.04.15 at 1:19 pm ET
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Over the last three April's, Mike Napoli has hit 16 home runs and 46 RBI. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Over the last three April’s, Mike Napoli has hit 16 home runs and has totaled 46 RBI. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Going into the 2015 Red Sox season the general consensus with the team is the offense is going to need to carry the much of the load.

This will be tested right out of the gate, as historically the pitchers in the starting rotation don’t get off to strong starts. On the other hand, the team has some hitters who have been known to put up some pretty impressive April numbers.

Aside from his blistering start to the 2013 season when he started 9-0 before being sidelined with a neck injury and going 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in April, Clay Buchholz has struggled in first month of the year. He has a 4.53 career ERA in the month and besides 2013 he’s had issues of late, going 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA in 2014 and 3-1 in 2012, but with a 8.69 ERA.

The other two pitchers who will be starting in Philadelphia this week — Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson — also haven’t had much success to open seasons. Porcello for his career is 9-12 with a 6.12 ERA in April, while Masterson is a little better at 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA, but has had ERA’s over 4.84 in two of the last three April’s.

The best performers to start the season in the Red Sox rotation are the last two in Wade Miley and Joe Kelly (assuming he’s ready to start April 11 in New York). Miley is 7-3 with a 3.47 ERA and opponents are hitting just .221 against him in the month, the lowest of any month during the season. In 2012 and 2013 he went a combined 5-0 with an ERA less than two. Kelly has only made three starts in April over the course of his career, as he was a reliever to start the year up until last year. In three starts last April he allowed just one earned run.

With the starters not having great success to open season’s, and the importance of getting off to a good start, the Red Sox‘ offense will need to step up.

For the most part Red Sox hitters do get off to good starts, and no one gets off to better starts to the season at the plate than Mike Napoli. The Red Sox first baseman for his career hits .253, but over the last three seasons he has totaled 16 home runs and 46 RBI in the first month of the year.

Also, getting off to hot starts to open the year is David Ortiz. For his career he’s a .273 April hitter, hitting .250 last year, but in 2013 he hit .500 with three homers in just nine games and hit .405 with six homers in 2012.

Although Pablo Sandoval is hitting .300 overall in April’s, he had a very disappointing opening month last season — hitting just .177 with only two home runs and striking out 22 times. If he does struggle again, there are other players in the lineup who can pick him up. Dustin Pedroia has hit at least .270 the past three April’s, including .337 in 2013 (his best month for average that year) and .301 in 2012.

Starting the season at or below .500 after the first month in 2012 and 2014 and finishing those years in last place, and then going 18-8 in 2013 leading to a World Series, there is no denying the importance of getting off to a good start to the year, and with this Red Sox team the hitters will be leading the way.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, mike napoli

Red Sox set roster: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes to Pawtucket; Koji Uehara, Joe Kelly on disabled list

04.03.15 at 4:19 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With two games left in the Grapefruit League season, the Red Sox have set their roster heading into Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Prior to Friday night’s game against the Twins at JetBlue Park, John Farrell announced both Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman would be starting the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. Barnes, who had been working as a reliever throughout big league camp, will be stretched out to start with the PawSox, while Workman remains in the bullpen.

Barnes appeared to have a legitimate chance at making the club with the team liking his ability to add a swing-and-miss element to the bullpen.

“He showed well,” said Farrell of the righty. “As we got deeper into camp, a number of guys began to throw the ball much better, Brandon Workman included, so we felt like with the matchups which we’re going against, we start the year with three lefthanders in the bullpen, and that was the overriding decision.”

Regarding Workman, Farrell said, “He’€™s moving in the right direction for sure. There were some tangible adjustments he did make. Because of the early camp performance, he found himself behind some other guys. But more importantly he takes with him that he’€™s on the right path and he’€™s performed at a high level here at shorter stints for us. We’€™re well aware of what he’€™s capable of and he’€™s just in a better place as far as throwing the baseball right now.”

Starting the season on the 15-day disabled list will be pitchers Joe Kelly (biceps) and Koji Uehara (hamstring), with both eligible to come off the DL April 11. Kelly, who will throw approximately 80 pitches in a minor league game at Fenway South Monday, is a candidate to get the start in the Red Sox‘ second game against the Yankees in New York.

Another possibility for the April 11 start at Yankee Stadium will be Steven Wright, whose initial role will be dependent on Kelly’s availability.

The three lefties the Red Sox will enter the regular season with include: Craig Breslow, Tommy Layne and Robbie Ross, who came on strong over the past two weeks after battling a knee injury early on in camp.

With Uehara down, Edward Mujica will serve as closer to start the season, with Alexi Ogando, Anthony Varvaro and Junichi Tazawa filling out the bullpen.

There are really no surprises when it comes to the position players, with Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, Sandy Leon and Allen Craig making up the bench behind starters Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts and Ryan Hanigan.

Holt got the start at shortstop Friday night in the place of Bogaerts just to get some work at the position heading into the season.

Clay Buchholz will get the start on Opening Day, with Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley following.

This will be the first major league Opening Day for Betts, Holt, Wright and Layne.

Read More: 2015 spring training,

Ryan Hanigan on MFB: ‘I’ll be ready’ to be Opening Day starting catcher

04.03.15 at 1:52 pm ET
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Ryan Hanigan

Ryan Hanigan

Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan joined Middays with MFB on Friday to discuss the Red Sox‘ situation behind the plate and and the 2015 season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Christian Vazquez was expected to be the Red Sox everyday catcher, but an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery to correct has led the team to place him on the 60-day DL to start the season. Hanigan is expected to replace Vazquez as the starter.

“It’s too bad what happened to [Vazquez]. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to playing with him this year,” Hanigan said. “He was ready and he was working hard, and the tandem we would have had I think would have been real solid. It’s too bad, but I’ve got to step up and get myself ready to play ever day. Embrace that opportunity. … I’ll be ready.”

The Sox will open their season on Monday against the Phillies. Clay Buchholz has been announced as the Opening Day starting pitcher.

Recently, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling called Buchholz’s commitment into question.

“He’s a veteran guy who knows what it takes to win,” Hanigan said when asked about the starter’s killer instinct. “Been a part of a championship team, has had some real good years and established himself. He really locks it in. His pregame work and the way he prepares and just kind of the look on his face the days when he’s pitching, he locks in and he wants it. That’s all you can ask from your guy.”

Added Hanigan: “I’m excited to catch him.”

One of the biggest questions for the Red Sox entering the 2015 season is its starting rotation. Hanigan, however, is not too concerned.

“These guys are all feeding off each other, they’re all working, they understand we’re here to win,” Hanigan said. “From everything I’ve seen, these guys are getting themselves prepared for their starts, even these spring training starts. They’re working hard to get stronger and tighten their stuff up, and it’s been good. I think all the guys, each outing have gotten better, gotten stronger, and made progress.”

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

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Red Sox, Ryan Hanigan,

Mike Napoli’s hips are actually better, but he’s still not going to catch

04.03.15 at 11:19 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — This should be filed under: We probably know the answer, but it’s still a question worth asking.

With the state of the Red Sox‘ catching position in some flux after Christian Vazquez’ season-ending elbow injury, all kinds of possible solutions have been surfaced. Promote Blake Swihart. Trade for an established veteran. Or, how about this: reintroducing Mike Napoli to the position he played almost exclusively before arriving with the Red Sox?

“Mentally I’€™ve let it go. It’€™s not even a question,” Napoli said of returning to catching, even on a part-time basis. “Physically, I don’€™t know how my hips would be if I did it. I haven’€™t really thought about that. I let it go a long time ago.”

Napoli hasn’t caught a single inning since coming to Boston after having played in 530 games at the position during his time with the Angels and Rangers.

One of the primary reasons the 33-year-old pushed catching aside was due to the degenerative hip condition (avascular necrosis) he was diagnosed with prior to signing with the Red Sox.

But not only did his most recent MRI — taken last year — reveal no issues with the ailment, the findings actually suggested he had gotten better.

Napoli is at a point now where he isn’t required to undergo any scheduled MRIs, and doesn’t even have to take the medicine he had taken for two years. The first baseman stopped the medication prior to his sleep apnea surgery, and has remained off of it since.

“I don’€™t think it has really shown that people have gotten better, although the medication is supposed to at least stop it,” said Napoli of his better-than-expected progress. “I hope I don’t have to take [the medicine]. The less medication the better.”

The inaugural WEEI.com Not-So-Special Section: Previewing the 2015 Red Sox in a very average way

04.02.15 at 10:29 pm ET
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You know those special sections the Herald and Globe put out to kick off baseball season? This is the opposite. Sweet dreams! (Elsa/Getty Images)

You know those special sections the Herald and Globe put out to kick off baseball season? This is the opposite. Sweet dreams! (Elsa/Getty Images)

If you’d care to indulge us in a little inside baseball, nothing gets newspaper editors feeling as good-to-go frisky as a special section, the Spanish fly in their shot of journalistic tequila.

Timed to start every baseball and football season (and maybe basketball and hockey, too, if anyone wants to buy an ad), the sections serve three purposes:

1. To whore for self-congratulatory awards no one cares about except an incestuous members-only club of award mongers;

2. To line mudrooms/light chimney starters/wrap presents if Santa hates you;

3. To sell advertising, which helps keep the rest of the paper in business. Can’t fault that one. We’d cover the Red Sox in lederhosen if someone paid us.

But read them? Please. Plenty of us dotcommers spent our former lives on the print side filling these sections ourselves, and nowhere is the ratio of work-to-consumption more skewed. You can write practically 8,000 words and spend half of spring training conducting interviews, but you might as well be filling pages 397-404 of the XI-XU Encyclopedia. No one is reading.

This isn’t to say they lack good work. The Players’ Tribune shined a light on such quality, for instance, by running a first-person account from David Ortiz about steroids. The Globe’s Bob Hohler had a superior story on the same subject sitting in Special Section purgatory, and Ortiz’s piece forced Hohler’s online immediately.

In any event, the only special section anyone remembers from the last decade is one that became a punch line. The Boston Herald kicked off the 2011 baseball season with “Best Team Ever,” and the Red Sox proceeded to deliver the Worst Collapse Ever a few months later. We’re told it was Tomase’s idea.

All of this setup is meant to introduce WEEI.com’s first annual Not Even Remotely Special Section, wherein we preview the 2015 Red Sox in a decidedly 2015 way — 140 characters at a time.

We take turns debating the topics that matter to Red Sox fans as a new season dawns, limited only by our imaginations, a vast library of emoticons, and whatever Vines, memes, and animated GIFs we feel like inserting. As long as it fits in a standard Tweet, it’s fair game.

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Red Sox notes: Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley headed to Pawtucket; Justin Masterson to start Game 3

04.02.15 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox made it official Thursday: Rusney Castillo won’t be starting the season with the big league club.

The team sent down outfielders Jackie Bradley and Castillo to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Sox also announced that pitchers Dana Eveland and Dalier Hinojosa, along with shortstop Deven Marrero and catcher Matt Spring had been assigned to minor league camp.

Catcher Humberto Quintero, who has an opt-out in his deal and will make $100,000 if he accepts an assignment to the minor leagues, was also told he would not be making the big league club.

While the Castillo news didn’t come as a total surprise, it was the most notable transaction of the camp to date. It’s not every day that a 27-year-old who is scheduled to make $10.5 million this season (and more than $70 million over the next six years) won’t begin the regular season on a major league roster.

Still, assuming Shane Victorino got to the end of spring training in good health, this scenario was most likely considered the probable outcome by the organization.

“With Rusney’€™s situation, he came, obviously he missed a little bit of time because of the oblique. But he’€™s done everything we’€™ve asked of him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “That goes back to the day we signed him to the winter leagues (Arizona and Puerto Rico) in which he participated in, to the way he played in spring training. He’€™s an exciting young player. At this point he’€™s going to begin the season at Pawtucket.”

Castillo told WEEI.com earlier in camp that if news came down that he would start in the minor leagues it wouldn’t alter his “plan,” “attitude” or “perspective.” It was a similar message he relayed to Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington when getting his news Thursday afternoon.

“That this wasn’€™t going to deter or change who he is or how he goes about his work,” said Farrell of Castillo’s reaction to the news. “He’€™s a young guy that is one a mission. It doesn’€™t, in his mind, begin in fruition until that starts again in Boston. That’€™s in the near future, we just don’€™t know when.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, jackie bradley, Rusney Castillo,

Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez to undergo Tommy John surgery

04.01.15 at 7:43 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

The Red Sox‘ worst fears have been realized.

Catcher Christian Vazquez, presumed to be the team’s rifle-armed starter, will instead undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday in Pensacola, Fla. The surgery will be performed by the renowned orthopedist, Dr. James Andrews.

Given the typical recovery time of roughly a year, Vazquez should be ready next spring training, but that’s of little consolation in the here and now for a Red Sox team that expected Vazquez to handle not just a new pitching staff, but to shut down opposing running games with his howitzer of a right arm.

Vazquez threw out 52 percent of opposing base stealers in an impressive debut last year, but that arm ended up being his undoing. He felt soreness after throwing out Tyler Wade of the Yankees on March 13, and when two weeks of rest didn’t provide adequate healing, underwent an MRI. The results of that, on Friday, “found something,” Vazquez said, and he was referred to Dr. Andrews.

The two met on Wednesday, and the Red Sox announced the findings later at night.

Without Vazquez, the Red Sox will lean on veteran Ryan Hanigan, an Andover native, to hold down the starting job, with recently acquired Sandy Leon in reserve. Neither has Vazquez’s arm –€“ though Hanigan has thrown out 38 percent of opposing base stealers lifetime, and led the NL in 2012 (48 percent) and 2013 (45 percent) –€“ but they’ll have to replace him.

Read More: 2015 spring training, christian vazquez,
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