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Gabe Kapler on M&M: ‘I would play [Grady] Sizemore every day’

02.28.14 at 2:17 pm ET
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Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler

Fox Sports baseball analyst Gabe Kapler joined Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon to talk about Grady Sizemore and the Red Sox. To listen to the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Sizemore, whom the Red Sox acquired in January, played in his first game in nearly 900 days Thursday when he appeared in the leadoff spot against Northeastern.

“If he proved to me in spring training that he could bounce back day after day, day in and day out, and he was healthy going into the season, I would start Jackie Bradley Jr., in Triple-A,” Kapler said. “I would play Sizemore every day until he proved it wasn’t going to happen and then I’d leave him off and feel very, very confident that he would be productive.

“I would be opposed to starting Jackie Bradley Jr.’s clock. That’s just me and the way I approach it considering the upside potential of what happens if Grady Sizemore is even 70 percent of what he was earlier in his career. I think the upside is so strong and the downside is so small. In other words, if he’s not healthy, then Jackie Bradley Jr., slides right in, but this is really about Grady Sizemore‘s ability to come back on a day game after a night game, for example, and just prove that he can play every day.

“If he’s able to prove that he can do that, for me, he’s a center fielder.”

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Red Sox notebook Friday: Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava to play Saturday, Christian Vazquez takes ‘big step forward’

02.28.14 at 11:18 am ET
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Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston's next great catcher. (AP)

Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston’s next great catcher. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — All the reports on Grady Sizemore came back very positive Friday morning so his return to game action will continue on Saturday at Hammond Stadium against the Twins.

“Grady feels great,” manager John Farrell said. “He came out of yesterday’s three innings, two at-bats feeling good. I’m sure he was eager to get going. First time in a couple of years being in a live game but he has responded well.”

Sizemore, who missed all of 2012 and ’13 with back and knee injuries, flied out to center in his first at-bat in the first inning and flew out to left in the second inning. It was his first game action of any kind since Sept. 2011. Farrell said Sizemore will play center after playing left field on Thursday against Northeastern.

Another rehabbing outfielder will get his first taste of game action on Saturday when Daniel Nava returns from a neck ailment and plays left field. Nava missed some time early in camp after waking up one morning with stiffness and soreness in the back of his neck.

Christian Vazquez continues to impress the Red Sox with his offensive development. On Thursday, he homered over the Jet Blue Monster in left against Boston College. The ninth-round pick from 2008 has always had shown signs of power, hitting as many as 18 homers with Single-A Greenville in 2011, driving in 84 runs in 105 games and batting .283. He seemed to be on the fast track in 2012 when he batted .266 in 81 games for High-A Salem. But he dropped to .205 in 20 games with Double-A Portland to close out ’12.

Last year, mostly spent at Portland, he had a breakout season of sorts, batting .289 with a .376 OBP in 96 games.

“Big step forward last year. Improved average but I think more than anything, when you start to see the walks and strikeouts start to even out, I think that speaks to his confidence in the [batter's] box and be comfortable and remain calm in some of those two-strike situations. He’s an exciting-looking player and a solid step forward, offensively, last year.”

With a gun for an arm and very quick feet, his defensive skills have never been doubted from the moment he was drafted as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico. Farrell says Vazquez will take the next step in developing game-calling skills and handling a pitching staff.

“Those [skills] are evident,” Farrell said. “The game-calling are to hinge a lot on the strengths of the given pitcher on the mound and how familiar is he with that individual. There’s a good foundation already in place, and that starts from the time they’re in rookie ball and that building block is there. But what he has also shown is the ability to read some swings and use that to make some pitch selections. He’s on a very good path as far as the position is concerned, all phases.”

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John Farrell: Loss of Jacoby Ellsbury’s stolen bases won’t mean fewer runs for Red Sox

02.28.14 at 10:42 am ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury (AP)

Jacoby Ellsbury now is on the other side of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The exhibition games have begun, and with the schedule kicking off, Jacoby Ellsbury‘s name has once again surfaced at Red Sox camp.

The first mention of Ellsbury’s name Friday prior to the Sox’ Grapefruit League tilt with the Twins at JetBlue Park came when John Farrell was asked if he had communication with the outfielder following Ellsbury agreeing to terms with the Yankees.

“He called after the deal was agreed upon, and to his credit he called to say thanks,”€ the Sox manager said. “I got the sense he was a little surprised it happened so fast to the magnitude that it happened. I wished him well, but now he is on the other side. He handled it with a lot of class. He was very grateful for his time here and gave thanks to the way things unfolded last year.”

What the mention of Ellsbury also did was offer another reminder that the top of the Red Sox batting order would look dramatically different on a regular basis for the first time since 2008. That reality was pushed along also by the fact that Jonny Gomes — a player who had one plate appearance in the leadoff spot in 2013 — was hitting at the top of the order against the Twins.

Gomes might not be the first leadoff option heading into the season, but he does represent the flexibility the Red Sox might have to enact. Other options include Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Grady Sizemore and potentially Jackie Bradley Jr. if the outfielder’s offensive skills progress.

But while Ellsbury presented the luxury of having a leadoff man who represented both the ability to get on base and then take another bag via a steal (52 in 56 attempts last season, to be exact), Farrell isn’t sweating the loss of that dynamic.

“The one thing it’s going to eliminate is a pure base-stealer. But that will not affect our aggressiveness of us going two bases, first to second and second to home. We feel like we have a deep lineup with good hitters,” Farrell said.

“Stolen bases can have an impact in certain points in the game. But to say by missing Jacoby’€™s base-stealing prowess, does that change that overall runs scored? We would probably say it might not. Bottom line is how many runs do we score. That’s our overall goal as an offensive team. We may do that a little bit differently, but still that’s the end result.”

Going forward, Farrell said his hope is to have a group of potential leadoff men who may rotate in and out but still have an idea what their role in the lineup will be on a daily basis.

“Depending on availability on a given day, or who the guy on the mound is, it could be,” he said. “If there is a different look, hopefully it’s within the same guys. My hope is as every player comes in they know they’re going to be in one spot or another in the lineup, and everybody fills into their normal spots. I think it’s important for players to come in and know where they’re going to be on a given day.’€

Following is the Red Sox lineup against the Twins.

Jonny Gomes LF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Xander Bogaerts SS

Will Middlebrooks 3B

David Ross C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Bryce Brentz RF

Anthony Ranaudo P

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John Lackey on salary structure for 2015: ‘It’s going to be different’

02.28.14 at 8:24 am ET
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John Lackey. (AP)

John Lackey is looking to build on a promising 2014. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey has lived an anything-but-ordinary existence for the last few years, so what lies ahead doesn’t figure to alter the pitcher’€™s approach.

What Lackey has done since coming back from Tommy John surgery is a feat that perhaps no Boston professional athlete has managed to this extent: Dug himself out from the depths of public perception to become a revered member of a world championship team.

Example: On the parade route following the Red SoxWorld Series win, one sign stood out, saying, “From Red Sox Nation to John Lackey — We’€™re sorry!”

As he heads into 2014, all is well for Lackey.

The 35-year-old is coming off a season in which he made 29 starts, compiling a 3.52 ERA. And then there was the momentum garnered from a postseason in which he compiled three wins while allowing eight runs over 26 innings.

“I just feel healthy, more than anything,” he said. “There was more confidence not having to worry about how I felt physically. I just had to worry about executing pitches.

“For the most part last year I felt good. It was something [where] I didn’t have to deal with a whole lot of extra treatment and get into a normal routine and perform. I don’t know if you ever figure everything out, totally. You’re always still learning. But I feel I’m in a good place physically and when I’m healthy I feel like I know how to pitch.”

But there is yet another unique scenario waiting around the corner for Lackey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox video montage of highlights from sweep over Northeastern, Boston College

02.28.14 at 8:19 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox opened their spring game schedule on Thursday with their annual college doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College. The Red Sox won a pair of 5-2 seven-inning games at JetBlue Park. Grady Sizemore started in Game 1 against NU and had two fly outs while Brandon Workman threw the first pitch of the spring. The Grapefruit League opener is set for 1:05 p.m. Friday at JetBlue Park against their crosstown foe, the Minnesota Twins.

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Travis Shaw (2-for-2), Garin Cecchini (2-for-3) lead Red Sox over Boston College

02.27.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Travis Shaw drilled a three-run double to break open a close game as the Red Sox completed a sweep of their college doubleheader with a 5-2 win over Boston College Thursday at JetBlue Park.

The Red Sox had to come from behind in the opener to escape with a 5-2 win over Northeastern as Grady Sizemore returned to game action for the first time since Sept. 2011. Both games were played in seven innings.

In the nightcap, Brandon Snyder’s ground rule double off BC starter Eric Stevens scored Brock Holt for a 1-0 Red Sox lead. Christian Vazquez homered over the JetBlue Monster in left in the fourth to put Boston up, 2-0.

Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts and Matty Johnson all singled to load the bases in the fifth. After Bryce Brentz struck out looking, Shaw, the son of former major league closer Jeff Shaw, doubled to deep right to open up the game and give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.

Those three runs would prove valuable as Boston College scored twice off Austin Maddox in the seventh before left fielder Kuery De La Cruz threw out Geoffrey Murphy at the plate to end the game.

Rubby De La Rosa started and got the win, allowing just one hit while striking out two in two innings of work. Matt Barnes followed up with a perfect third inning.

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Red Sox score late, edge Northeastern, Grady Sizemore (2 flyouts)

02.27.14 at 3:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Grady Sizemore flew out in his first two spring training at-bats while Brandon Workman threw a pair of scoreless innings to start the game as the Red Sox scored four in the bottom of the sixth to come from behind and beat Northeastern, 5-2, Thursday afternoon in the spring training opener at JetBlue Park.

“Everything felt good,” said Sizemore, who has battled back and knee injuries that had kept him out of baseball since 2011. “I didn’t feel like I was forcing anything, the body felt fine and I was happy with that.”

Sizemore was asked about making a push to make the team in camp.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “For me, it’s more of a physical thing, and just kind of getting back into baseball shape and getting conditioned. I think if I’m healthy and I continue to work hard, I’ll be in a good spot from a baseball skill standpoint.

“I’ve enjoyed everything, not just the games, everything. Just being here, getting the work. I appreciate all of it. I can’t wait to get back to the ball park. I’m enjoying everything.

“It’s a tough stretch to go through, especially when you’ve battle through this. You try to move forward and not dwell on the injuries and not look back. I’ll test it and see how it feels. I guess you’d expect to be a little bit more sore than normal and not to get too frustrated with that. If I come in feeling fine [Friday], then we know that I can continue to push it more, build up my innings and go from there.”

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Jonathan Herrera walked to open the inning, stole second and third before scoring on a Jayson Hernandez groundout.

Northeastern responded off Noe Ramirez in the sixth. Ramirez was replacing 37-year-old submariner Shunsuke Watanabe, after Watanabe pitched a scoreless fifth.

Northeastern’s James Hand doubled to left, scoring Shane Allen and Nick Fanneron and putting the Huskies on top, 2-1.

But the lead was short-lived as Shannon Wilkerson hit a ball to short with runners on second and third. The ball was misplayed by Keith Kelly allowing one run to score. The ball careened to center and was mishandled by center fielder Nick Fanneron allowing the go-ahead run to score. Two errors on the same play allowed the Red Sox to take the lead for good, 3-2. They would add two more on an RBI triple by Scott Cousins and an RBI groundout by Herrera.

Ramirez, despite giving up the two runs, earned the win.

Other notables:

  • Grady Sizemore flew out to center and left in his two at-bats in the first and third innings, respectively. He started in left field and batted leadoff.
  • Northeastern lefty James Mulry struck out Dustin Pedroia (looking) and David Ortiz (swinging) back to back in the third inning. “The kid can go out and celebrate tonight, I guess,” Ortiz said. “I guess he was watching what they tried on me in the World Series.”
  • Ryan Lavarnway doubled and singled and went 2-for-2 in his spring debut.
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