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Observations on Game 2: Dustin Pedroia backs up his words, Joe Kelly gets rust off, Xander Bogaerts goes deep

03.05.15 at 10:23 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Observations from the Red Sox‘ 9-8 loss to the Twins at the grand reopening of Hammond Stadium.

PEDROIA GOES DEEP: Dustin Pedroia assured us that he was feeling healthy for the first time in years. It showed on his grand slam in the fourth.

“I knew I was back to normal in the offseason,” Pedroia said. “Obviously I told you guys that, but you can only believe me if you see it. So there you go.”

It goes without saying what difference a healthy Pedroia would make atop the Red Sox lineup. The home run against live pitching was good to see, particularly since he hadn’t exhibited tremendous power in early batting practice sessions.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen that type of swing in a good amount of time,” noted manager John Farrell.

“I’m just trying to come out and try to get better,” Pedroia said. “That’s all I’m focused on. I’m not worried about anything else. Every day, try to do something to help the team. That’s what I’m concentrating on.”

Might the grand slam be a sign?

“Just watch,” Pedroia said. “My job is to play. Your job is to watch.”

KELLY LOOSENS UP: Right-hander Joe Kelly wasn’t crisp, allowing a series of rockets in 1 2/3 innings that including seven hits, four runs and two strikeouts. That’s nothing new for the former Cardinal, who traditionally struggles in spring, as his last four Grapefruit League ERAs attest: 6.28, 4.91, 3.60, 9.00.

“My springs aren’t usually good,” Kelly said. “My spring numbers are actually pretty terrible, from what I can remember.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Dustin Pedroia,

Rusney Castillo: Trip to minors wouldn’t alter ‘plan,’ ‘attitude,’ or ‘perspective’

03.05.15 at 3:30 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo. (WEEI.com)

Rusney Castillo is battling a left oblique strain. (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There is a long way to go before the Red Sox Opening Day roster is decided upon, but there is one scenario that should be broached: Rusney Castillo possibly starting in the minor leagues.

It isn’t believed that Castillo’s left oblique strain will keep him out long enough to dent his chance at earning a spot in the Red Sox‘ outfield. (“I feel a lot better,” he told WEEI.com through translator Adrian Lorenzo, “especially compared to the other days.”)

Still, the presence of Mookie Betts in center field, Shane Victorino in right field and Allen Craig and Daniel Nava presenting value on the roster has led to the thought that the $72.5 million man might not start the season in the majors.

When asked about such an outcome, Castillo offered a level-headed response.

“To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective,” he said. “If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come.”

Helping Castillo’s approach is the security which comes with a contract that keeps him under Red Sox control through 2020.

“Of course there is a degree of comfort in that that I’m going be here for a while,” he noted. “At the same time, if you don’t want to be in the minor leagues ramp it up and work harder to not be there.”

An interesting side note to Castillo possibly landing in the minor leagues is the debate throughout baseball about Cuban players being resistant to such a lot in life. Some have said that those making such great sacrifices to have a chance at playing in the big leagues often times are disillusioned when having to toil in the minors.

Castillo, for one, doesn’t subscribe to such a narrative.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard any complaints or frustrations from them on that end,” the outfielder said. “From my personal experience, I took it as part of the process if that’s what the management and the people who signed me decided what was best for when I got to the big leagues, to be as prepared as possible. I don’t remember being any sort of frustration or questioning why I was going to the minor leagues. Looking back at it now, it helped me a lot to have that experience.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Rusney Castillo,

John Farrell’s history with Paul Molitor dates back to his first appearance

03.05.15 at 3:05 pm ET
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Back in my days at the Boston Herald, I wrote a piece about pitchers’ big league debuts. The subject came up again on Thursday, because the Red Sox open the spring against the Twins, who are managed by Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who happens to be the first batter Farrell ever faced.

The Herald story is archived, so I can’t provide a link, but here’s a chunk of it dealing with Farrell and Molitor, who had a more memorable confrontation a few days later in that 1987 season, when Farrell ended Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak.

Farrell had just turned 25 when he was summoned from Triple A Nashville to Cleveland in August of 1987 for a spot start.

He arrived at the old Cleveland Stadium at 6:30 p.m., figuring he’d get acclimated before debuting a couple of days later.

Then the Indians and Brewers engaged in a wild one that burned through Cleveland’s thin bullpen. By the start of the 12th, closer Doug Jones had already thrown four innings and didn’t have a fifth in him, so Farrell, who had literally made only one relief appearance in his life, was summoned.

Leading off: future Hall of Famers Molitor and Robin Yount.

“I threw two pitches,” Farrell recalled, “and had runners on first and second.”

Farrell didn’t let those two singles get to him. He “somehow found a way to weasel out of it,” inducing Glenn Braggs to ground into a double play before Pat Tabler won it with a walkoff single in the bottom of the frame, making Farrell a winner in his debut.

“There’s an array of emotions running through you,” Farrell said. “First time in the big leagues, extra-inning game, I’ve never pitched in the bullpen before, and here you are with two guys at the peak of their games at the time. It was daunting, to say the least. I threw 15 or 16 pitches, and I’ll bet 13 of them were fastballs. I couldn’t feel my body all that much.”

Farrell made his scheduled start three days later and improved to a 2-0 with a complete-game victory over the Tigers. Five days later, he became a footnote in history by ending Molitor’s 39-game hitting streak as part of an epic duel with Brewers lefty Teddy Higuera, who tossed a 10-inning 1-0 shutout in a walkoff win that ended with Molitor on deck.

“That was Teddy Higuera night,” Farrell said. “Rick Manning drove in the winning run in the 10th and got booed.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, John Farrell, Paul Molitor,

Red Sox starters have identified their ace (thanks to some T-shirts)

03.05.15 at 2:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Evidently, the Red Sox starting pitchers are trying to put punctuation on one of this camp’s most talked-about subjects.

As John Tomase mentioned in his column Thursday, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington had an interesting comment when asked about the Cole Hamels rumors during the team’s radio broadcast Tuesday, saying, “I think the guys in that group like it, that’s there’s a tension about it and [external] talk about it. I think quietly, behind closed doors, they sort of like it, and there’s some motivation that comes through it.”

Thursday, the motivation came out into the team’s clubhouse.

Clay Buchholz took the initiative to make up T-shirts and hand them out to each member of the starting rotation. Each has the pitchers’ last names and number on the back. But four are light blue with the saying, “He’s the ace” on the front, while one — reserved for that day’s starting pitcher — is gray and says, “I’m the ace.” (Joe Kelly got to be the first to wear the gray one since he gets the start Thursday night in the Red SoxGrapefruit League opener against the Twins.)

“It shows the guy that there is no pressure on them,” Buchholz said. “They can just go out and pitch. Everybody has confidence in their ability. It’s one of those things to keep everything loose and have fun with it.”

To read Tomase’s column on the subject, click here.

Read More: 2015 spring training, wade miley,

Torey Lovullo was almost opposing manager for Red Sox Grapefruit League opener

03.05.15 at 11:15 am ET
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Torey Lovullo

Torey Lovullo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox take on the Twins Thursday night in their Grapefruit League opener. (The game, which will be played at Minnesota’s newly-renovated/renamed spring training complex, CenturyLink Sports Complex, can be heard on the WEEI Sports Radio Network immediately following the Hot Stove Show: Spring Training Edition. It all starts at 6 p.m.)

For Joe Kelly, it will be an opportunity to take the mound for the first time this spring. For Jackie Bradley, the meeting allows for a chance to take advantage of not having to share time with Rusney Castillo while the Cuban outfielder recovers from a strained left oblique. And for Torey Lovullo, it is a reminder of what almost was.

Lovullo was the finalist for the Twins manager job, which ultimately went to Paul Molitor. By all accounts, it was a decision that came right down to the end of the process, with Molitor’s ties with the organization perhaps offering the ultimate advantage.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for that whole group that’s in their front office. I had great interactions,” Lovullo said of the Twins’ decision-makers, which was led by general manager Terry Ryan. “I learned a lot. I learned a lot about them. I know they’re going to be pushing in the right direction.

“When it goes as far as it did and you’re one of the final two, you’re no longer a 10 percent chance because you’re one of 10. Now it’s 50-50. You start to feel a little bit better and allow yourself to say, ‘You know what, I’ve done my job in executing my thoughts to them and it’s working so let’s keep going.’ There was a process that kept going all the way until Paul Molitor was named as manager that made me feel like I had a real legitimate chance.”

Lovullo flew out to Minnesota for his initial injury, but was then forced to conduct a follow-up get-together with the Twins’ brass — including owner Jim Pohlad — near his Southern California home after undergoing hip surgery.

“The common question is if I thought I really thought I had a chance because of Paul Molitor’s reputation and connection with the organization. Yeah, because I was told I did and I believed the front office and legitimately I felt like it was a very fair race that I just lost,” Lovullo explained.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, torey lovullo,

Rusney Castillo ‘down for some time’ with left oblique strain

03.04.15 at 1:22 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo will be out at least a week with a strained left oblique. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox were reminded Wednesday why it’s good to have too many instead of too few.

With the talk of excess outfielders circulating through camp for the past couple of weeks, the numbers were cut into for the foreseeable future thanks to Rusney Castillo’s strained left oblique.

Castillo hurt his oblique during his third at-bat against Boston College Tuesday. After undergoing an MRI, it was determined the outfielder would be “down for some time,” according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Both Farrell and Castillo confirmed the 27-year-old had never previously experienced such an injury. The manager surmised the ailment would keep his outfielder out for more than a week.

“It wasn’t any sort of different kind of swing or odd swing, it was just a pitch that was a little in,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo. “I took a regular swing on it and felt something there right in the oblique area. That’s what it was.”

When asked if he believed the injury would negatively impact his chance to break spring training with the big league team, Castillo said, “I don’t think it impacts me in a negative way. We’re doing everything we can to recuperate as quickly as possible. I guess we’ll see how it goes.”

Castillo noted that there is no timetable for his return, and that the injury felt better than it did Tuesday night.

“It’s part of the process, I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating,” he noted. “I don’t know exactly how much time I’m going to be out yet but it’s all part of it.”

Farrell said Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley will continue to rotate in center field. The manager also passed on that Shane Victorino was scheduled to play in the Red Sox‘ Thursday night game against the Twins, but will be in the lineup for the following two games.

Read More: 2015 spring training, John Farrell, Rusney Castillo,

Reports: Jerry Remy’s Fenway Park restaurant closes for good

03.04.15 at 11:50 am ET
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According to multiple reports, Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill, located just outside Fenway Park, has been closed.

The franchise’s other three locations — Logan Airport, the Seaport District and Fall River (Remy’s hometown) — remain open.

The blog Boston Restaurant Talk reports that the establishment is in bankruptcy and the landlord — the Red Sox — will not renew the lease due to the financial problems.

The restaurant, at 1265 Boylston Street, opened in March 2010. Its roof deck overlooks Fenway Park’s right-field wall.

Remy came under heavy criticism last year when a Boston Globe report detailed how he had enabled and protected his son Jared, who had a long history of violence toward women before pleading guilty to first-degree murder last year in the 2013 killing of his live-in girlfriend.

Remy, who also has battled cancer, took some time away from his job as NESN Red Sox color commentator before returning to the booth.

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Observations from Day 1: Rusney Castillo hurt, Pete Frates inspires, who needs an ace?

03.03.15 at 6:52 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Observations from the first day of actual baseball this spring, a pair of close victories over Northeastern (2-1) and Boston College (1-0):

MOOKIE BETTS, FRONT AND CENTER

If you’re John Farrell, nothing would be better than Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo each putting his best foot forward in the battle for the starting job in center.

That was certainly the case on Tuesday, when Betts went 1-for-2 while playing with the starters against Northeastern, and Castillo followed with a line single on the first pitch he saw playing with the reserves in the nightcap. We’d be talking about how neither player separated himself, except Castillo left the BC game with tightness in his left side and will be evaluated on Wednesday morning.

There’s no word yet on the severity of his injury. If he’s able to return quickly, the competition for the starting job in center is shaping up to be intense.

“The biggest thing, as you mentioned, is that they’re both skilled,” Farrell said. “They have a package of skills — they can run the bases, they can hit with some power, they can hit with some average. There’s maybe a little more aggressiveness on Rusney’s approach at the plate, but these are two very good players that we’re talking about. We’ll see how things go [Wednesday].”

PITCHERS EXCEL

Northeastern and BC may not have lineups rivaling the Yankees or Orioles, but it was still encouraging to see Red Sox hurlers post zero after zero.

Starters Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, and Wade Miley combined to toss five shutout innings, with Buchholz keeping the ball down, Porcello mixing his pitches, and Miley working quickly, as advertised.

“I thought, overall, it was a very good day from the mound,” Farrell said.

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John Farrell warns against reading into Mookie Betts getting start

03.03.15 at 5:23 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — As we noted earlier on Tuesday, it was hard not to notice Mookie Betts starting the Northeastern game with the rest of the regulars in place of Rusney Castillo.

But manager John Farrell cautioned against reading too much into the situation.

“Don’t you always?” Farrell joked. “No, I wouldn’t read anything into it. We said at the outset this is a competition. Guys are going to get equal reps best we can, particularly guys in the flank. Playing in between both Hanley [Ramirez] and Vic [Shane Victorino]. We had to start somewhere, and that’s where we are today.”

Betts went for 1-for-2 with a caught stealing in the opener, while Castillo singled sharply leading off the nightcap against Boston College.

Betts failed to see the significance of the start, too.

“Guys can get in the mix in at any time,” he said. “Just because it’s the first game doesn’t mean anything. We’ll all mix in and get good opportunities. The main thing is getting reps.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, mookie betts,

Clay Buchholz: ‘The ball was moving like it’s supposed to’

03.03.15 at 5:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz probably has the highest ceiling on the starting pitching staff, which makes it all the more painful when it comes crashing down around him.

That made Tuesday’s debut inning against Northeastern encouraging. Buchholz struck out one during a scoreless frame, incorporating the mechanical changes he has worked on all winter in an attemp to be more consistent. He exhibited greater command of his changeup, kept the ball at the knees, and accomplished everything he wanted out of a spring debut.

“The ball was moving like it’s supposed to, I guess, like I wanted it to,” Buchholz said. “The adjustments in the delivery that I’ve been working on felt a lot more smooth than last year in particular. I’ve still got a little work to do, but it felt good.”

Buchholz explained that he has tried to straighten his leg kick towards home plate, rather than being “roundabout” towards third base and the right-handed batter’s box.

“I’m more to home plate and staying on on line,” he said.

Perhaps most encouraging for Buchholz was the basic fact that he kept the ball down.

“That’s key for me,” he said. “I throw a lot of two-seam fastballs, and when they’re up, they’re flat, and they seem to get hit a lot more often. Being down is definitely something I need to be doing — down in the strike zone, four of the five starters, we’re sinker guys.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Clay Buchholz,
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