|John Farrell: Monday reunion with Tim Wakefield in Dunedin||02.19.13 at 8:55 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell will apparently have a reunion with Tim Wakefield on Monday in Dunedin as the former knuckleballer visits his former team and their current knuckleball prospect, Steven Wright.
“Right now, he’s tentatively scheduled to see him up in Dunedin on Monday, see him throw,” Farrell said Tuesday. “He’s coming off a family vacation but he has every intention of seeing that game and then be down here [in Fort Myers] the rest of the week.”
Farrell initially said he hadn’t decided whether or not to make that trip to Dunedin or the much shorter trip to Port Charlotte for the other split-squad game against the Rays, in which Alfredo Aceves will be pitching. Pressed on the matter, Farrell said with a smile, “I’ll see you in Dunedin.”
Another pitcher was under the microscope on Tuesday as Farrell raved about the work ethic of right-hander Junichi Tazawa, the 26-year-old right-hander who came back last season from Tommy John surgery to impress the Red Sox and those who watched him down the stretch, like Farrell when he was managing the Blue Jays.
“He’s come back with almost different stuff,” Farrell said. “When he first signed here, he was a guy who controlled the running game, could throw multiple pitches for strikes. But what’s most impressive since he came back from Tommy John is the increase in velocity. I don’t know if anyone projected him to be a mid-90s type of guy, and he’s been that, particularly in the second half of last year, and having not sacrificed command and location. You look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio totals are outstanding and he does all the little things inside the game that really show up in those later innings.”
Indeed, Tazawa struck out 45 batters while walking just five in 44 innings, while posting a 1.43 ERA in 37 games and a stunning 0.955 WHIP. Tazawa made the transition from starting pitcher in 2009 to reliever in 2011, after missing all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
“Combination of both [move to bullpen and usage pattern] but the strengthening he did throughout the rehab is one of the reasons the arm strength has continued,” Farrell said. “The adrenaline and he’s such a good athlete, he’s able to channel that adrenaline in such a good way that his stuff really played up. His lateness [in break] of the split, he really emerged as the season went on last year. He’s got weapons, very good pitcher.
“I think there’s a clear sense of who he is. Setting aside anything else that took place from a record standpoint, he showed a lot of durability without a dropoff in stuff with the frequency of use. He’s in with a very good group in that bullpen.”
Tazawa does have options remaining, meaning he could wind up at Triple-A Pawtucket to start the season if space is needed in the pen at the end of camp.
“First and foremost, health is going to have a lot to do with it,” Farrell said. “We’ve got a couple of situations where we’re trying to get back to full strength. Until we get to that point, I recognize we have some excess in numbers with very talented guys. We have a long way to go before we get to the final decision.”
No word yet on when Mike Napoli or David Ortiz might play in spring games: “I don’t have a date yet. Napoli is making very good progress so I can’t imagine and foresee that it would be too far into the game schedule until he’d be on the game field.”
On Ortiz: “He’s still going through agility and still has some protocol to complete with that.”
John Lackey will start Saturday. Jon Lester will start Sunday and Alfredo Aceves will start on Monday in Port Charlotte. Everyone will throw two innings, except for Lackey, who will pitch just one frame. Xander Bogaerts will start at third base on Thursday against Boston College.
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