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Shane Victorino blasts critics for saying he wanted to trade Red Sox prospects for Cole Hamels

03.26.15 at 10:20 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Over the past few days much has been made of Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels, with the Red Sox potentially giving up prospects (most notably Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart) to get a number one starter.

Victorino has taken exception to the matter and spoke to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford Thursday morning calling out the critics.

“Of course. I wouldn’t use the word surprised,” he said. “I think it’s just the understanding of what was being construed and these guys are obviously going to assume because those are the names that were attached. There is no reason why I would want anybody out of here. That’s not the basis of the conversation. The conversation was if you could go get a number one, would you give up pieces of the future to go get them? That was the question. It wasn’t this name specifically, that name just because those guys have been attached to these kinds of players or in trades that’s the people they assume I am talking about. I never mentioned any names in general — it could be a hitter, it could be a pitcher. Could be any team. I’m not talking about even just here.

“These guys, individuals that want to speak up and say certain things and put me out there like I am calling my teammates out — hey, come show up. Let me discuss this and talk to you in person rather than you make an assumption and that is the stuff as an athlete that upsets me. People who make comments and they don’t come in and justify the situation. You’re going to say on talk radio and you’re going to make those kinds of comments, don’t think that I don’t hear it, or somebody is not going to send me a message, or it’s not going to get back to me. Of course it is. Before you make that assumption, Mazz, and whoever you are, let’s get the situation of what I was trying to say. I never said anybody’s name. Trust me, if there is one guy I am an advocate of and I have been a believer in since day one, that’s him [Betts].

“I am not worried about the pitching aspect. I’ve played this game long enough. I was just saying in the scheme of things, anything, not even just here, that is the part they centered in on this team or Cole Hamels and the situation that was going on. Yes, Cole is a big guy, but at the end of the day I am just talking about in the scheme of things. When you talk about prospects, when you talk about these guys. If you got a guy to me, in my opinion that has been there and has done it, rather than ‘OK this guy is a prospect and he has a lot in the future or this guy can be compared to that player. Hey, why not go get the guy now and hey, if this guy turns out tip your cap and he turns out to be that player.’

“That for me, never being a prospect and understanding that situation and having guys ahead of me that were considered that prospect or this prospect, that is the part where I justify that question. That is what I look at. I am not looking at it any other way, no other speculation and like I said, these guys are going to take the headline, or take whatever is being talked about and go make it into a bigger fish. It’s a small fish.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Shane Victorino,

David Ortiz: ‘Dehydrating is part of being human’

03.25.15 at 11:57 am ET
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After being questioned for taking time off at spring training due to dehydration, David Ortiz detailed his health situation to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford and vowed to be ready to go soon.

Ortiz said the dehydration issue led to him becoming sick, and the Red Sox medical staff decided it would be best for him to rest.

“Everything just tied up on me and I started feeling sore. I couldn’t run,” he explained. “I’ve had it before. The minute I started feeling that way I went to the doctor and they already knew.

“I don’t know why people would criticize. Dehydrating is part of being human. You know how hot it’s been down here? I dehydrate and then I caught a bad cold. So all these symptoms get all your joints tied up, which normally happens. I started feeling soreness, so they shut me down. Now I’m starting to regroup and feel better. I have this thing I’ve got to manage the right way.”

Ortiz has made 19 plate appearance this spring (he had 40 last year), and he said he isn’t concerned with his limited preseason action. He noted that he has been working on his swing, although he’s still feeling sore.

“I’ve got to be smart about it. I’m not 20 anymore, and this ball club needs me for the season,” he said. “I see people getting worried about me in spring training and I’m like, ‘What’s going on? I thought the season was more important than spring training.’ But I understand. I get the memo. I know when people don’t see you playing out there, which is something everybody normally does, they start worrying. But everything is going to be fine for the season.

“Opening Day is a big deal, but not to me. It’s just another day. I want to be good for the season. I want to be able to do what I do for the season, and that’s what I’m worried about right now. I’m not really worried about stressing out about spring training. Spring training doesn’t mean [expletive] for me.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, David Ortiz,

How Mookie Betts’ ability to adjust was born with a blocked shot

03.25.15 at 11:26 am ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As good as Mookie Betts has been this spring training — and his .471 batting average would suggest he’s been really good — there is the understanding that this is just the beginning.

Once immersed in the major leagues on a full-time basis, he is going to have to adjust, because the opposing pitchers certainly will be.

Fortunately for Betts, he has a pretty good track record when it comes to adjusting. For that, he can thank his time on the hoops court during his high school days in Tennessee.

“When I think about it, it wasn’t really baseball that showed me the adjustments,” Betts said. “It was basketball. Being small and playing with guys who were bigger, you just had to learn how to adjust. It’s not something where I felt like I had to do this or that. It was just figuring out that I can’t take it to the rack every time because my shot would get blocked, so I had to pull up. Those adjustments naturally happened and then I took that into baseball and let it naturally happen and it’s just gone from there.

“You can’t go to the basket against guys 6-foot-8, 7-foot. You just learn over time you have to make an adjustment. In baseball you have to learn to make adjustments. But it really didn’t hit be hard until I started getting swatted. Same adjustments, just different sport.”

He can even offer the specific instance where acceptance to change started taking root.

“I can recall one time where this guy was nowhere near me and I go up for a lay-up and he pinned it. I was like, ‘What?!’ Then a couple of times I pulled up and I was at the three-point line and he was at the free throw line but I thought there was no way he was going to block my shot, but he jumped and blocked it,” Betts said. “Those were the type of things where I realized something had to change. Eventually I learned how to get it off. Then when baseball you have a 2-0 count and you think no way they’ll throw a breaking ball and they do it. Now my body naturally adjusts that maybe I can hit a 2-0 hanger. It’s just kind of natural.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, mookie betts,

John Farrell: ‘Growing concern’ Red Sox closer Koji Uehara won’t be ready for Opening Day

03.24.15 at 2:45 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

It’s looking more and more like Koji Uehara won’t be ready to start the season.

Speaking to reporters in Jupiter on Tuesday morning, Red Sox manager John Farrell acknowledged that the closer, who is battling a hamstring strain, is running out of time to be ready for the opener in Philadelphia on April 6.

“I think with each passing day he’s not in a game, there’s growing concern, concern in the sense, will he be ready for April 6?” Farrell said. “And we’re just working through that.”

This is an about-face for the Red Sox, since Farrell said over the weekend that he fully expected Uehara to be ready for the opener. The closer himself believed he could jump right into the big leagues without throwing another pitch this spring, but the Red Sox would like to see him get more work.

“I think it’s important to see him in games, to evaluate the stuff,” Farrell said. “For Koji himself to understand what he has in the moment and what he goes to the mound with from a physical standpoint.”

If Uehara isn’t ready to start the year, Farrell has suggested that Edward Mujica could see save opportunities, with right-hander Alexi Ogando a darkhorse.

The team still believes that Uehara’s injury won’t sideline him for long. The 39-year-old right-hander played long toss on Tuesday and the hope is that he can throw a bullpen later this week.

For more on concerns over Uehara, check out this story.

Read More: 2015 spring training, Koji Uehara,

Observations from JetBlue Park: Red Sox might start season with 8 relievers

03.23.15 at 4:41 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It wasn’t a memorable game at JetBlue Park Monday. In fact, it never really officially took place.

The meeting between the Red Sox and Cardinals was halted due to rain after 4 1/2 innings, with St. Louis carrying a 2-0 lead. Even though the stats don’t count, let it be known that Rick Porcello went five innings for the Sox, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out five and walking one.

The real news, however, came after the sort-of-game with John Farrell suggesting his team could break camp with eight relievers.

Such a scenario would take place if the Red Sox decide to keep Joe Kelly back in extended spring training. Kelly, who hasn’t pitched in Grapefruit League action since leaving his March 16 start with biceps soreness, is slated to pitch in a minor league Friday.

Farrell noted that the situation should be clearer after Friday. Kelly isn’t pitching in the Red Sox‘ scheduled game against the Braves in Orlando that day in order to keep the option of retroactively placing the pitcher on the 15-day disabled list in play. (If a player performs in front of a paying spring training crowd, it limits the club’s ability to retroactively DL him.)

The Red Sox won’t need a fifth starter for their first two series in Philadelphia and New York due to the April 7 off day. The first time they would need the extra starter would be April 12.

Kelly threw a bullpen session Sunday without incident, integrating starts and stops to simulate game situations. (“I don’€™t anticipate him not being ready at this point, but we’€™re just keeping the other scenario as an option,” the manager said.)

“I think that group has probably narrowed some, the guys in competition,” said Farrell regarding the competition for the last bullpen spot. “We’€™ll have more information to factor in by Saturday, which would include Kelly’€™s next outing. There’€™s one scenario that could have us break with eight relievers. And the first time we would need a fifth starter would be on the 15th. That’€™s all being factored into this as well.”

Clay Buchholz will pitch against the Braves in Orlando Friday, with Steven Wright joining Kelly in facing minor leaguers.

The group of relievers projected by this writer to make the team in such a scenario would be: Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, Alexi Ogando, Anthony Varvaro, Tommy Layne and Matt Barnes.

— Porcello was optimistic in regards to his outing, having now allowed three earned runs over 10 innings.

“I feel strong,” the pitcher said. “My sequences and the way I’m thinking on the mound is there. The consistency of the pitches isn’t where I want it to be. That’€™s why we’re here in spring training right now. I’ve just got to keep working on the consistency. I like the sequences. The changeup was really a lot better today, and that was really the one pitch I had been working on in between starts. It’s there, and there’s spots where everything is really good and working together, and there’s some spots where it’s a little inconsistent. Overall I feel strong and healthy and ready to go.”

David Ortiz could see some at-bats in minor league games over the next few days, but is still eyeing a Thursday return to the regular lineup.

Read More: 2015 spring training,

Shane Victorino explains why he’s hitting exclusively right-handed

03.23.15 at 2:32 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With two weeks to go in spring training, Shane Victorino has weighed his options and made his decision — hitting exclusively from the right side will be the way he goes from here on in.

The right fielder attempted a return to switch-hitting earlier in camp, having felt his newfound health could withstand swinging from the left side. Victorino hadn’t routinely hit lefty since the middle of the 2013 season.

Speaking to WEEI.com, Victorino offered the reasoning behind giving up switch-hitting:

“I just felt doing so much work, trying to get comfortable and trying to find my left-handed swing was taking a toll,” Victorino said. “It had been countless hours in the cage trying to hit from the left side, feeling comfortable to work on that and continuously doing that. I felt like it was starting to physically take a toll and was setting me back in regards to what I was dealing with my hamstring and some typical leg soreness and kind stuff we were dealing with. I felt it led to what a lot what going on where my lower half was tired, because I was spending a lot of time working on things in the cage. Beyond that, it was a decision I felt like I thought it was necessary to make. Why go down that path (of potentially getting injured) again? I don’t want to put myself behind the eight ball. Whatever it takes.

“Then to have an organization say, ‘If that’s what’s going to make you feel better and allow you to go out and play every single day then we’re more than fine with it,’ that helps a lot in making that decision. When you signed me I was a switch-hitter and physical things led me down another path. I wanted to feel as good as I was and be a switch-hitter again, but it was taking a physical toll.”

While there will be continued adjustments to be made, the outfielder felt it was time to prioritize his health.

“Physically everything is going good, and that’s the most important part for me,” Victorino noted. “It’s not about being lefty or righty or being a switch-hitter. I want to be healthy. That’s the most important thing for me. Whatever is going to get me to play 162 games. Obviously I hope to play 162, although I doubt they’ll look at it that way. From my standpoint, things have come along. I tried but I felt there were some physical setbacks that were starting to kick in and everything was happening on the left side. So I said, ‘Let’s not make it worse.’ I felt like it was getting to that point, and that’s why I made the decision to be a right-handed hitter.”

He added, “This year I feel like I’m healthy going into the season, knock on wood. Hopefully nothing changes. But the way I feel now, and where I’m at, I feel confident I can go out there and be an everyday player and hit solely right-handed. But there are going to be adjustments I have to make from a hitting standpoint. At some point is there going to be a little bit of fear or discomfort in the box? Of course. It’s something that I’ve never really done over the course of a year. But I have confidence in myself I’ll make adjustments and I’ll figure it out.”

To read all of Victorino’s comments, click here.

Read More: 2015 spring training,

Relay race results in long ride for Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez

03.22.15 at 10:44 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell had been cooking up the idea for some time.

Sunday morning, he hatched the plan — a relay race between two groups of position players that would determine the who was to make the three-hour trip to Jupiter Tuesday when the Red Sox took on the Marlins.

“That’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while, back in the offseason. Knowing where our travel schedule is going to put us,” Farrell said. “I thought it was a chance to get a good conditioning day in. Looking for ways to have a little bit of a team building event. I think it accomplished all that, maybe more, the way guys took to it. nobody wants to make that bus ride so there was a little incentive.”

What it also accomplished was sending some regulars on the trip across the state, with the team consisting of Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Jemile Weeks, Jackie Bradley, Humberto Quintero, Quintin Berry, Rusney Castillo, Xander Bogaerts and Daniel Nava taking the loss.

The competition came right down to the end, with Mookie Betts narrowly beating out Weeks on the final leg.

The winning team — which was officially identified by referee David Ortiz (who dressed in full referee garb) — included Betts, Luke Montz, Garin Cecchini, Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, Jeff Bianchi, Deven Marrero, Bryce Brentz and Matt Spring.

Read More: 2015 spring training,

Observations from Red Sox’ victory over Phillies: Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts turn on power, Clay Buchholz on track for opener

03.22.15 at 4:30 pm ET
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Just call them Thunder and Lightning.

For all the questions about the Red Sox rotation, one aspect of their club no one disputes is the offense, which should be one of the best in the game.

Two examples were on display in Sunday’s 7-6 victory over the Phillies at JetBlue Park — Hanley Ramirez (thunder) and Mookie Betts (lightning).

Ramirez blasted a titanic three-run homer to dead center and Betts added an inside-the-park shot that paced a 13-hit attack and made a winner of knuckleballer Steven Wright, who tossed four shutout innings.

Betts and Ramirez both went deep in the third inning. Betts led off with a drive to the wall in center that eluded Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera. Thinking two bases out of the box, Betts turned on the jets around second, and when Herrera struggled to find the ball at his feet, raced safely for home, waved in aggressively by third-base coach Brian Butterfield.

After Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval reached, Ramirez followed with a monstrous blast to dead center with a swing reminiscent of Manny Ramirez, fully extending his arms on a fastball over the plate and punishing it.

“I mean, I was working on stuff,” Ramirez told reporters. “Like I told Panda, we’re not trying to make the team. We’re just trying to get ready for the season.”

The homer was Ramirez’s first of the spring. Betts, meanwhile, went 2-for-2 with a pair of runs to raise his average to .471.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, hanley ramirez, mookie betts,

Morning Fort: Joe Kelly not making scheduled start; Shane Victorino abandons switch-hitting

03.21.15 at 12:31 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

BRADENTON, Fla. — A few days ago, Joe Kelly was sure he would be making his scheduled start Sunday after experiencing right biceps tightness in his last outing. Despite his confidence, he will have to wait a bit.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said prior to his team’s game against the Pirates at McKechnie Field that instead of starting Sunday, Kelly will throw a 50-pitch bullpen session with simulated starts and stops.

“Even though he came out of his bullpen the other day with no issue, still at 70 percent, which might be a normal bullpen, we just want to get him up to normal game intensity, but not in a game setting,” Farrell said. “Maybe it’s a little precautionary, but it’s something I feel like he walked off the mound in a middle of a start and we’ll take that extended bullpen tomorrow with an eye on him making his normal start next Friday. … Not a setback whatsoever, just an intermediary step towards getting to game speed.”

— Other than Kelly, the news of the day was Farrell announcing Shane Victorino deciding to give up switch-hitting.

“He’€™s going to hit from the right side exclusively, so I think with all the work he’€™s been doing in the cage swinging left-handed, some of the tightness that he has, felt as a result of the left-handed swing, that gets alleviated and I think that has a chance to free up his mind as well,” Farrell said. “That’€™s the plan going forward with him, he’€™s going to hit right-handed.”

Victorino has been hitting from both sides throughout spring training, having gone 2-for-16 in Grapefruit League action.

“You want the most productive at-bats, regardless of what side they come from,” Farrell said. “And in Vic’€™s case, it was starting to take its toll, just the reps he was going through to try to get that swing productive. I think at the point of the work, it was starting to become counterproductive on the way he was feeling physically. That’€™s the rational behind him going right-handed.

“It’€™s kind of the whole right side. The torque and the twist, the rotation I should say with the number of swings taken. He feels it on the left side of the body.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Joe Kelly,

Rusney Castillo goes deep in first Grapefruit League at-bat

03.20.15 at 6:36 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Maybe Rusney Castillo is going to make things interesting in these final couple of weeks.

While most have ticketed Castillo for the minors to start the regular season due to time missed thanks to an oblique injury, along with the play of center fielder Mookie Betts, the Cuban outfielder began to make his mark Friday.

Entering the Red Sox‘ game against the Orioles in the top of the seventh, Castillo launched a three-run homer in his first official at-bat of spring training. (He had three at-bats in the Sox’ exhibition game against Northeastern, while playing in minor leagues Wednesday and Thursday).

“I was obviously happy it turned out to be a home run,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “More than anything, I was just happy that I was able to go out there completely healthy and pain free and felt really good out there. It’s really good to be back out there.”

Castillo will get the start in center field against the Pirates in Bradenton on Saturday.

And while his landing spot for Opening Day will remain uncertain for at least a week or so, for the time being Castillo is solace in the certainty of being on a baseball field.

“To be honest, it’s not something where I’ve ever felt any pressure to play baseball,” Castillo said. “Baseball is my one safe haven. I’ve just never felt pressure playing, even with the contract and everything. It’s not something I think about.”

The Red Sox ultimately lost the game, 11-5, with starter Justin Masterson making some strides after a disappointing outing his last time out.

Against the Orioles, Masterson allowed four hits and a run over four innings.Tommy Layne followed the starter with a perfect inning, while Mitchell Boggs (3 walks, no outs) and Zeke Spruill (1 IP, 3 runs, 4 hits) struggled in the late innings.

“It was better,” Masterson said. “Started off kind of babying the ball a little bit then it got better. Trying to get into my arm slot, stay there. It’s still a little bit inconsistent but for the most part, right there. … In the overall sense I was happy with it. A nice progression from where we were in the last outing to this outing. Perfect. Spring training.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Rusney Castillo,
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