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It was only minor league game, but for Rick Porcello, Wednesday’s outing hit spot

03.23.16 at 4:01 pm ET
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Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Wednesday marked the only off day of the Grapefruit League season for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello (and a few others), however, had to work.

The pitcher didn’t mind.

Pitching to minor leaguers on the back field at Fenway South at JetBlue Park, Porcello turned in his best start of the exhibition season. The righty threw 96 pitches, allowing an unearned run on four hits while striking out eight and walking one over six innings.

“I felt pretty good,” Porcello told reporters. “I felt like I definitely was getting up there in pitch count, but it didn’t really affect my command or anything. It was good to work through that many pitches. Arm strength is there, and the stamina feels like it’s there.”

Porcello had struggled for much of the Grapefruit League season, having allowed 12 runs on 19 hits over nine innings.

But with two starts still left before his first regular-season outing, Porcello hopes to use Wednesday’s work as a springboard to finding the rhythm he locked in on for the final two months of the 2015 campaign.

“Today was definitely the best it’s felt so far,” said Porcello, who teamed up with catcher Christian Vazquez. “It’s kind of what I’ve been working toward. I was definitely happy with the way I threw the ball, especially later on.”

Joe Kelly is slated to pitch Thursday at JetBlue Park against the Mets, with Roenis Elias following.

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Alex Rodriguez to retire after 2017 season

03.23.16 at 2:48 pm ET
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Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — This should be an interesting retirement tour.

According to ESPNNewYork.com, Alex Rodriguez will retire after the 2017 season. The completion of that campaign will mark the end of his current contract, a 10-year, $275 million deal.

The controversial 40-year-old is coming off a solid season with the Yankees, totaling 33 home runs and an .842 OPS while serving as New York’s designated hitter.

In his 21-year major league career, Rodriguez has hit the fourth-most homers (687) in big league history. Rodriguez resides just 27 homers behind Babe Ruth, 68 in back of Hank Aaron, and trails the all-time HR champ, Barry Bonds, by 75.

For his career, Rodriguez boasts a .297 batting average, and .937 OPS. He has won three American League Most Valuable Player awards.

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Takeaways from Red Sox Grapefruit League game No. 22: Steven Wright seems to be doing just enough

03.22.16 at 4:27 pm ET
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Steven Wright and Blake Swihart teamed up to form the Red Sox starting battery Tuesday. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright and Blake Swihart teamed up to form the Red Sox starting battery Tuesday. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

JUPITER, Fla. — The line wasn’t awe-inspiring, with Steven Wright giving up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits over five innings Tuesday against the Marlins.

But the knuckleballer’s performance seemingly still did nothing to hurt his cause.

Wright remains seemingly on the inside track to lock down the No. 5 spot in the Red Sox rotation, having settled down after allowing two runs four hits in what ended up being a 3-0 win for Miami.

“Honestly, I don’t even think about that,” the righty said when asked about competing for the spot in the rotation vacated by the injured Eduardo Rodriguez. “I feel like the luck that the Red Sox have is there’s a lot of guys that can fill that role and do a damned good job doing it. So I feel like for me, I just want to go out there and pitch. I haven’t thought about rotation or bullpen.

“Right now, I’m being lengthened out as a starter because it’s easier to back off than it is to ramp up. But no matter who they give it to, I think they’re going to do a damned good job. I’m just concentrating on trying to do what I did today and try to keep the ball moving as much as I can within the strike zone. It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or relieving. I’ve still got to keep the ball in the strike zone and change speeds.”

Wright has totaled a 3.07 ERA after five spring training appearances (including his two-inning outing against Boston College). This was the deepest Wright has gone, having previously maxed out at four innings two starts ago against the Blue Jays.

Wright’s chief competition for the starting rotation spot, Roenis Elias, is slated to pitch Thursday at JetBlue Park after starter Joe Kelly.

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Red Sox reliever Carson Smith likely to start season on disabled list

03.22.16 at 3:44 pm ET
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Carson Smith

Carson Smith

JUPITER, Fla. — It wasn’t the worst-case scenario, but it still wasn’t what Carson Smith, or the Red Sox, were looking for.

After undergoing an MRI on his right arm Tuesday in Fort Myers, Smith was diagnosed with having a strain of the flexor muscle in his right elbow. The diagnosis led Red Sox manager to say that it was “likely” that the reliever would begin the regular season on 15-day disabled list.

Farrell did say, however, that he still expected Smith to be a chief contributor for the Red Sox’ bullpen this coming season.

“This is a little bit of a setback, given the time of camp we’re in, and that’s why it’s likely he begins the year on the DL,” said Farrell after his team’s 3-0 loss to the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. “We want to make sure when we build him back up we’re taking it at an appropriate pace.”

Farrell reported there is no throwing plan in place, or timeline for when the Red Sox will be putting a baseball back in Smith’s hand, having to wait to see how the pitcher responds to the initial treatment.

Smith was removed from Monday’s game against the Cardinals after throwing four pitches, having felt tightness in his right forearm.

The 26-year-old, who came to the Red Sox with Roenis Elias from Seattle for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro, pitched in 70 games for the Mariners in 2015, his first full big league season.

(Click here to read what Smith had to say when meeting with reporters Tuesday morning.)

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Story behind Dave Dombrowski’s mandate to not worry about contracts when planning playing time

03.22.16 at 1:46 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Dave Dombrowski (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

JUPITER, Florida — Some in the Red Sox organization have said they never experienced anything like what Dave Dombrowski did, and continues to do.

Both before spring training started, and then in recent weeks, the Red Sox president of baseball operations informed the team’s coaching staff that decisions on playing time and roster spots would not be determined by contracts.

That meant Pablo Sandoval, he of the five-year, $95 million contract, wouldn’t be handed the third base job over Travis Shaw. Or that despite being locked up for the next five years at $56.5 million, Rusney Castillo was a no-brainer to make the team.

“I think I’ve traditionally taken that approach,” Dombrowski told WEEI.com prior to his team’s game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday. “It’s funny, Jim Leyland would always say, ‘A player’s contract big contract would guarantee them one thing, that they had a bigger check to bring home every two weeks. It doesn’t guarantee them anything else other than that.’ Normally, you hope there is a correlation between the two.

“I thought it was important, because I’m new here, that that was my philosophy, and our philosophy as an organization, that I had a chance to visit with [principal owner] John Henry and [chairman] Tom Werner and know they supported that. I thought it was important to do that. I think for good organizations, and clubs that are trying to win, you need to play the best guys to win.”

For the coaching staff to implement the kind of competition the Red Sox currently find themselves with, there must be an approval from their boss, who in this case is Dombrowski.

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Red Sox reliever Carson Smith feels better 1 day after forearm strain but needs more tests

03.22.16 at 11:04 am ET
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Carson Smith

Carson Smith

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox reliever Carson Smith, who left Monday’s game in Jupiter against the Cardinals with right forearm tightness, said he passed his first physical examination and feels better but will undergo further testing on Tuesday.

Smith, who spent the morning in workout gear at JetBlue Park, changed into jeans before leaving, presumably for imaging of his right elbow, though he said he wasn’t sure.

“We saw the doctor when I got back yesterday,” Smith said. “Everything checked out pretty positive, pretty good. We’re still undergoing a few more tests and we’ll see where we are from there.”

The initial physical exam of Smith revealed no obvious issues, but the pitcher won’t know for certain until he gets an MRI. He expected to be examined in Florida.

“It feels all right,” Smith said. “It doesn’t feel too bad. I’m relieved a little bit. We’ll see where it goes. It’s pretty close to normal. I can’t say it’s normal, but it’s feeling better.”

Smith, acquired this winter from the Mariners for left-handed starter Wade Miley, is being counted on to lock down a spot in the back of a rebuilt Red Sox bullpen. His velocity dipped a bit as last season wore on, and he clearly didn’t look right on Monday before manager John Farrell removed him from the game.

“Obviously I want to be dressed and out stretching at 10 o’clock with the rest of the guys,” Smith said before departing. “Until I’m able to do that, I’m not going to say I’m feeling great about it.”

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Competition between Travis Shaw, Pablo Sandoval continues to heat up

03.21.16 at 6:05 pm ET
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Travis Shaw collects one of his three  base-hits Monday. (Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports)

Travis Shaw collects one of his three base hits Monday. (Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports)

JUPITER, Fla. — Travis Shaw found out about this competition just like most of everybody else — by reading John Farrell’s proclamation Saturday that the final two weeks of spring training would be determining who would be the Red Sox’ Opening Day third baseman.

“When I read it,” said Shaw when asked when he knew it would officially be a competition for the third base spot, between him and Pablo Sandoval. “Nobody really has said to me different than what they’ve been saying all spring. Just make sure I’m ready at third. That’s all I’ve been told. Reading that, obviously, we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping this is going to be fun.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s nice to kind of have a little bit of a backing. I guess the recognition of at least how I feel. I think I’m having a good spring and I feel like my at-bats are solid at-bats, and I feel good defensively. So it’s nice to see other people viewing the same things that I’m feeling.”

If what transpired in Monday’s Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Cardinals is any indication, this could be a very interesting couple of weeks.

Playing third base, Shaw notched three more hits (including a double) to raise his Grapefruit League batting average to .474 to go along with a 1.237 OPS.

Sandoval, however, did his best to keep up, coming away with a single and double while manning the Sox’ designated hitter spot. His batting average stands at .296 with a .946 OPS for the spring.

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Red Sox reliever Carson Smith leaves game with forearm tightness

03.21.16 at 5:24 pm ET
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Carson Smith

Carson Smith

JUPITER, Fla. — The Red Sox received their second significant health scare of spring training, Monday afternoon.

After throwing five pitches to Yadier Molina, Red Sox reliever Carson Smith was taken out of the game by John Farrell after the manager noticed an awkward throwing motion by his pitcher.

It would later be revealed that Smith was experiencing tightness in his right forearm.

“He felt a little tightness in the forearm, a little cramping sensation and just the way he was moving his arm it was clear that he wasn’t feeling normal,” Farrell said after his team’s 4-3 win over the Cardinals. “More precautionary than anything, got him out of the game. He’ll be examined when he gets back to Fort Myers tonight by Dr. [Peter] Asnis and see what that evaluation produces.”

Asked how troubling the developments were for a bullpen that is relying heavily on Smith as a late-inning reliever, Farrell was realistic.

“I think there’s always concern,” he said. “At this point in time of the year certainly not going to take any chance at all so backed him out of it. We’ll see what the evaluation produces.”

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Clay Buchholz takes step in right direction in latest outing

03.21.16 at 3:01 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz

Clay Buchholz

JUPITER, Fla. — With clouds of doubt starting to hover over much of the Red Sox rotation outside of David Price (and maybe Joe Kelly), Clay Buchholz eased some anxiety with his latest Grapefruit League outing.

Buchholz turned in his best start of camp, allowing one run on five hits over 4 2/3 innings against the Cardinals. He struck out two and walked one, while throwing 80 pitches (52 strikes).

The only run scored off of Buchholz came on an RBI double from Jedd Gyorko in the third inning.

This was the fourth outing for the righty, who gave up four runs and three walks over 1 1/3 innings against the Orioles, and three runs in four innings vs. the Twins, also walking three. He did participate in a simulated game in between the first two official spring training starts.

Prior to this year, Buchholz had only had one spring training in the last five seasons where he finished the exhibition season with an ERA above 3.43 ERA. The seven free passes thus far matches his Grapefruit League high.

Buchholz was replaced in the fifth inning by Matt Barnes.

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With opt-out looming, Red Sox outfielder David Murphy says he’s unlikely to accept assignment to minors and would consider retirement

03.21.16 at 1:09 pm ET
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David Murphy is a man in the middle for the Red Sox at the moment. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

David Murphy is a man in the middle for the Red Sox at the moment. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Murphy’s opt-out looms on Sunday, and not only is the veteran outfielder disinclined to accept an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket, but if he doesn’t land a big league job, he’d consider retirement.

Speaking to WEEI.com at JetBlue Park after a morning workout, Murphy discussed his bid to make the roster, which may have looked like a longshot when he signed on Feb. 29, but suddenly has some legs, thanks to the struggles of left fielder Rusney Castillo and repeated proclamations by manager John Farrell that the primary determining factor in building this year’s roster will be which players give the Red Sox the best chance to win.

“I think I’m to the point in my career where I’ve played plenty of baseball, and I don’t think I’m interested in playing in the minor leagues,” Murphy said. “I have four kids. My kids and my wife put up with a lot to go through with this game. When you’re a kid and you dream of playing this game, you dream of being a big leaguer. I would love to play until somebody tells me I can’t play anymore, until they rip the shirt off my back, but I think it’s got to be a big league situation.”

And if it’s not? What if Murphy’s March 27 opt-out arrives and not only do the Red Sox not have a roster spot for him, but no one else does, either?

“Retirement is definitely a possibility there,” Murphy said. “I don’t know. The way that everything has gone this offseason, something like that has crept up kind of quickly. It would definitely be part of my thought process, but I really don’t know. I’d have to take a little bit of time to think about it, or to go home and stay in shape and wait for a phone call. There are so many variables, so many possibilities, that I didn’t think I would have to think about this year. But it is what it is.”

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