|03.09.15 at 4:25 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — Wade Miley got his work in and right-hander Matt Barnes continued to impress in an otherwise nondescript 3-0 victory over the Cardinals on Monday.
Miley tossed three shutout innings, but he wasn’t exactly sharp, allowing three hits and two walks, along with two strikeouts.
“It’s still getting there,” Miley said of his arm strength. “It’s still early. We’ve got time. It’s close. Very close.”
The left-hander threw everything except his curveball and felt that he kept the ball down, for the most part. He saluted catcher Christian Vazquez for being a leader behind the plate.
“Vazquey, I can’t say enough good things about him,” Miley said. “He cares a lot about the staff. He’s been communicating with me since the day I got traded. He was one of the first guys I heard from. We’ve been in contact, and it’s been the same way when I got here. He wants to pick my brain and I want to pick his. The sooner you get on the same page, the better off you are.”
Otherwise, the standout performer was Barnes, the hard-throwing righty from UConn who struck out three in two shutout innings, allowing one hit, to earn the save.
Barnes was facing mostly minor leaguers by the end, but he still made effective use of his curveball for two strikeouts.
“I mean, how can you not like the stuff?” manager John Farrell said. “It’s premium stuff that he’s shown in two outings. He got his first taste of pitching out of the bullpen last September and that’s not to say we’re looking to change his role and how we view him. We’ll take it as it comes right now.”
Farrell reiterated that the Red Sox still consider Barnes a starter, and will continue stretching him out that way.
|03.09.15 at 1:13 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. — Allen Craig was once an MVP candidate for the Cardinals. Now he’s little more than a fifth outfielder/trade bait for the Red Sox.
Finding him playing time — especially because he was once a regular — won’t be easy.
But that doesn’t mean the Red Sox are writing off Craig. He can play the outfield and first base, and if his foot is healed, has the kind of bat that could demand playing time in the case of an injury to a starting outfielder. He received MVP votes in 2012 and 2013 with the Cardinals, making the All-Star the latter season while driving in a career-high 97.
“We’ve always felt that despite what he went through last year, there’s a productive hitter here, one that’s got a proven track record,” Farrell said. “Timing is better. He’s in good shape. The foot issue is behind him. We expect him to regain his ability to hit.”
The tricky part of the spring is the fact that Craig should be very much on the trade block. The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders — Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and maybe even Daniel Nava (because he hits left-handed) all reside ahead of him on the depth chart — and Craig is a player who could have some value if he proves healthy this spring.
“It’ll be a challenge to get him the number of at-bats he’s accustomed to,” Farrell said. “That being said, I’m putting myself in the wrong position if I’m worrying about trades or speculating who might be.”
So for now, Craig will back up Mike Napoli at first, as well as Ramirez in left.
“We fully expect him to be on this team,” Farrell said. “There’s nothing to expect otherwise. He’s the one in particular that we just said, ‘Let’s get the appropriate number of at-bats that spring training would provide,’ and we’ll go from there. His attitude has been great. He understands the situation that he’s in. He understands that, coming off last year, we had to make decisions to improve the team, and he’s got to compete for at-bats. He’s more than willing to embrace that.”
|03.08.15 at 7:11 pm ET|
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Rick Porcello is done talking about his contract.
The right-hander may have just arrived from the Tigers this winter, but after throwing three scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday, the free agent-to-be said he plans to make baseball his only priority.
“I’m 100 percent focused on getting ready for the season,” Porcello said. “I said this a couple times. That’s my focus, getting prepared for the year. Whatever happens, happens. Right now that’s my focus and hoping to work hard and win another championship.”
Porcello, who is entering his sixth season, can become a free agent at age 26 after the season. He signed a one-year, $12.5 million deal this winter, avoiding arbitration, and if he authors a 2015 anywhere close to his breakout 2014 (15-13, 3.43), he’ll be in high demand.
Asked if the Red Sox had reached out to talk about an extension, Porcello said no.
“And honestly, this could be the last time I answer this question,” he said. “The focus should be on baseball and our team, what we’re going to do moving forward.”
Porcello’s potential foray into free agency will be made easier by the trade that shipped him from Detroit this winter for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. After spending his entire career with the Tigers, Porcello had an inkling he might get moved.
“Knowing I had one year left and knowing the depth they already have, I didn’t expect to get traded, but at the same time, I wasn’t going to be surprised if I got traded,” Porcello said. “I’ve said this countless times I’m very fortunate I got traded to this team, this organization and had a chance to win this year again. That’s the most important thing to me this year, going into the season on a team that’s going to compete and win. That’s all you can ask for.”
Porcello got used to trade talks in Detroit.
“Every offseason, there were always rumors surrounding me,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about it except go about your business, work hard, and hopefully you’re fortunate enough to be playing in the big leagues and wearing a jersey next season, wherever that is. The preparation and focus on that doesn’t change. I was involved in a lot of talks but did the best I could to not pay attention to any of it.
“At the end of the day, thinking about it, worrying about it is nothing I can control but it’s just wasted energy.”
|03.08.15 at 6:52 pm ET|
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Observations from the Red Sox‘ 6-3 victory over the Mets:
XANDER TIME: The story of this one was definitely Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop continued his torrid spring by going 2-for-3 with an opposite-field single and three-run homer down the left-field line.
Read what you will into a handful of spring training games, but Bogaerts looks like a different hitter than he did for much of last season. He’s hitting .375 with a pair of homers and six RBIs and has returned to the all-fields approach that had him flying through the minors.
He got fooled by a slider on his home run, but kept his hands back and his front side closed, enabling him to launch it over the left field fence basically with one hand.
“I was out in front a bit, but I didn’t open up,” Bogaerts said. “It wasn’t that bat of a swing. It’s just staying closed was what I did. The whole time, I’m thinking of hitting the ball up the middle and other way.”
That approach was on display in the third, when Bogaerts waited on a 1-2 fastball away from Jon Niese and ripped it to right field for a single. Add a line out to short that required a diving catch in the first, and Bogaerts was right on the ball all day.
“I liked the one going to right field,” Bogaerts said. “I was behind in the count. I’m just not getting too overaggressive. I’m just letting the ball get deep and putting the ball in play. It’s something I really want to do more this year — put the ball in play. If you put the ball in play, stuff can happen.”
PORCELLO POUNDS ZONE: Right-hander Rick Porcello got off to a slow start that included a first inning of loud contact, but once he ended the first with a 5-4-3 double play on Michael Cuddyer, he cruised.
Porcello limited the Mets to four hits and an unearned run in three innings, striking out two and walking none.
|03.08.15 at 12:54 pm ET|
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Red Sox prospect Sean Coyle was supposed to start Sunday, but he took a ball off the lip in batting practice and was replaced in the starting lineup by Jemile Weeks.
It’s too bad Coyle can’t play, because he’s a fascinating prospect. Despite standing just 5-foot-8, Coyle has slugged 32 homers in the minors over the last two years. He doubled high off the wall at JetBlue on Saturday against the Twins, and it turns out he learned hitting by reading a fascinating teacher — none other than Ted Williams.
When Coyle was just a kid in Pennsylvania, he and his brother found an old copy of, “The Science of Hitting,” and it forms the bedrock of his approach today. They started flipping through it as children, before they could actually read, to look at the famous illustration of Williams’ average in each part of the strike zone, as denoted by baseballs.
“My dad had ‘The Science of Hitting’ and the pages were falling out,” Coyle said. “Me and brother went through it. At first we just liked to look at all the pictures of baseballs and averages. Then we started to read into it. It started there.”
Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield salutes Coyle’s exceptionally strong lower half for generating his power, and Coyle said that comes from Teddy Ballgame.
“I’m a firm believer in a lot of things Ted Williams had to say about hitting,” Coyle said. “The hips lead the swing. Everything starts from the ground up, for sure.”
Because he weighs just 175 pounds, Coyle understands the skepticism over his ability to hit for power at higher levels. He takes his cue from Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
“I look at him as someone who doesn’t need to be 7-foot tall to act like it,” Coyle said. “I really look up to him and how he goes about things and how he’s unfazed and how he’s confident despite what people have to say about him.”
Whether Coyle starts the year at Double-A or Triple-A, he’ll always have the words of Williams to guide him. He said he can still remember which drawer in his dad’s office the book sits in, though he now reads it online.
“It’s funny to come full circle and I’m now on the Red Sox,” he said.
|03.07.15 at 4:55 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Observations from the Red Sox‘ 4-2 win over the Twins at JetBlue Park:
BUCHHOLZ IN CONTROL: The story of this one was undoubtedly Clay Buchholz. The right-hander allowed a leadoff walk and nothing thereafter, striking out four in three hitless innings. His fastball opened at 91-92 mph, he kept the ball down, and he featured an excellent changeup in mowing down the Twins.
With Buchholz coming off a season lost partly to injury and partly to ineffectiveness, the fact that he has hit the ground running is hugely encouraging. He has the stuff — and track record — to be the best pitcher on a playoff staff, though he has yet to do so consistently.
At least we’re off to a good start.
“It’s just another step,” Buchholz said. “That was my first inning against major-league guys, and the goal was to go out and work on fastball command and then throw my other pitches off that. I threw some more changeups today that were like I want them, and I was able to make some adjustments out there, too.”
MOOKIE MAKES THINGS HAPPEN: Those who have pegged Mookie Betts as the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury in terms of dynamically impacting a game atop the order had even more ammo after this one.
Betts alertly breezed into second on a dropped fly ball to right, aggressively took second on a wild pitch, and tripled off the net in left before scoring a run.
|03.07.15 at 11:16 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Shane Victorino has no idea what he was thinking.
Playing just his second game in seven months on Friday against the Marlins at JetBlue Park, Victorino went first to third on a Daniel Nava double to left, sliding in just ahead of Don Kelly’s throw. He felt fine in the immediate surge of adrenaline, but his legs tightened later.
When he arrived at the park on Saturday morning, he knew he shouldn’t risk playing. Originally in the lineup, he’ll instead take the day off with what manager John Farrell described as “general soreness.”
Sitting in the dugout before the game, Victorino just shook his head.
“Second game in seven months and I’m going first to third on a bang-bang play?” Victorino told WEEI.com with a wry laugh. “What’s my problem?”
Victorino actually knows the answer to that question.
“It’s the only way I know how to play,” he said.
What’s important to note, Farrell said, is that Victorino’s back is fine. As proof, he took batting practice before Saturday’s game against the Twins. He’ll take Sunday off as well before heading across the state to play against the Cardinals in Jupiter on Monday.
The original plan had been to give Victorino the trip off, to save his surgically repaired back from a three-hour bus ride, but he’s determined to play.
“Coming out of the game yesterday and when he reported this morning, we’re just trying to be on a little bit of the cautious side,” Farrell said. “It’s just a lower extremity — quad, hammies. It’s not back-related at all.”
|03.06.15 at 4:47 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Quick observations after a 5-3 loss to the Marlins at JetBlue Park:
KOJI STRUGGLES: Closer Koji Uehara made his debut in the third inning and allowed a lot of loud contact for a single, two doubles and a run, not that he’s sweating it.
“I’m not even looking at my location or anything, I’m just trying to get my innings in,” Uehara said through an interpreter. “Just being on the mound and being able to repeat my pitches. I think I was able to do that.”
At this point in spring, there’s little point in paying much attention to results, and with his 40th birthday closing in, there’s no reason for Uehara to push the envelope.
UP AND DOWN FOR OWENS: Prized left-hander Henry Owens tossed two very different innings en route to the loss. He struck out two in his first inning of work, then was touched for three hits and two runs in his second.
“You don’t make too much out of it,” manager John Farrell said. “First time out, I thought he threw a couple of breaking balls to some left-handers that had good depth and finish to them, and that has always been a development pitch for him. He throws the ball over the plate. He’s a strike thrower with quality stuff. I think the more we see him against major league hitters, that’s the primary goal in camp for Henry.’
The big blow off Owens was an RBI triple by Jordany Valdespin.
|03.06.15 at 3:54 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ask Justin Masterson if his arm ever felt right last year, and he shakes his head.
“There was never really a point where everything was right,” he said. “I was trying to tough guy through it, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but it’s a great learning experience.”
Masterson dealt with an assortment of injuries last year to his knee, shoulder, and oblique. They combined to produce the worst season of his career (7-9, 5.88). They also made him an ideal bounce-back candidate for an organization that knew him well after drafting him in the second round of the 2006 draft.
On Friday at JetBlue Park, Masterson made his spring debut against the Marlins and looked healthy at the very least, allowing just one unearned run on a hit and walk in two innings. He generally kept his sinker down and induced the ground ball outs that are his forte.
“As we continue to progress, I’m really happy where it’s at,” Masterson said. “The arm’s doing a really a great job. We’re still a month away. There’s still a lot of throwing to be done. Every single time is a checkpoint. You look at it. You’re not really overly caring about results until we’re a few games away from go time.”
This is a welcome change from last spring with the Indians, when Masterson already knew he didn’t feel right.
“There weren’t really many times, there wasn’t really any time, when it just felt great in an overall sense,” Masterson said. “It kind of helps for this year to be open and honest, to be able to work through stuff.”
Masterson feels good about outing No. 1, although he didn’t recognize the Prince song that accompanied his journey to the mound.
“Just doing the routine, going through the routine of the starting process before the game, warming up, starting things, having your boys run out there with you, having some random music that I didn’t pick,” he said. “I had no clue what they were playing to really pump me up. It was fun to be out there. Those are the small victories that give you an extra mental edge.”
|03.06.15 at 10:37 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have insisted they view right-handed prospect Matt Barnes as a starter, but on Friday morning, manager John Farrell opened the door for Barnes to make an impact in the bullpen.
It’s easy to see why. On Thursday night, Barnes struck out three in two innings of shutout relief against the Twins. His fastball touched 97 mph, he featured a tight breaking ball, and he looked very much like a guy who could help solve a power deficiency at the back of the bullpen.
There are probably two spots up for grabs, Farrell said, with Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, and Anthony Varvaro safe bets to make the squad. Lefty Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando are the favorites for the last two spots, but could Barnes alter that equation?
“If everyone was healthy, we probably viewed two spots in competition among a group of four or five,” Farrell said. “Does an outing like last night increase the pool? I don’t know that we need to anoint that yet, but that was a really good outing to watch.”
The Red Sox selected Barnes, 24, in the first round of the 2011 draft out of UConn. He made five relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA last September, but has been used almost exclusively in the rotation (72 starts, 1 relief appearance) in the minors.
“I don’t have a whole lot of history with Matt Barnes, but that was a different guy than even what we saw in September,” Farrell said. “Sometimes you look for silver linings in an otherwise frustrating year and talking with Matt Barnes, he has a better understanding of who he is as a pitcher, what’s required at the major league level and the constant focus and concentration needed, all those were talked openly by him. And he went out last night and demonstrated some of the things he learned last year. Breaking balls much tighter. I’ve never seen that kind of velocity from him. He was a different guy last night.”
Might that stuff play in the bullpen?
“We have an understanding what the physical abilities are,” Farrell said. “And you try to get a sense of how are they managing the inning. When things are starting to go, when they’re getting challenged inside of an inning, are they handling it in a calm matter? Is their poise and composure remaining the same? Or are you seeing it play out a little bit?”
File this one under: Something to watch.
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