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Morning Red Sox notes: John Farrell envisions DH rotation while David Ortiz is out

03.12.13 at 10:50 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — For more than a decade, David Ortiz has been the lineup constant. The Sox haven’t had to wonder what life would be like without a prototypical designated hitter because they have had THE prototypical designated hitter.

But, with Ortiz now all but certain to open the year on the disabled list, the Sox face a new reality, at least for the start of the 2013 season. And so, the team has commenced discussions about what it will do in his absence until he is ready to be activated from the disabled list.

“We don’t have another David Ortiz,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “We envision it as being a little bit of a rotation, so not to say one person would be strictly a DH. That’s an initial approach. To say that it would be a drastic shift to a player’s routine or staying loose in between at-bats to what they might not otherwise be accustomed to, we haven’t pinpointed one guy.”

Farrell suggested that matchups will play into the decision, as will overall roster management, with the opportunity to move one player out of a position and thus give a player who might otherwise be a bench option more time in the field.

Farrell made a couple of interesting observations about specific players and their potential fit for the DH role. He suggested that, to this point in camp, Ryan Lavarnway has been having better at-bats in games where he’s been the catcher rather than a DH. That comes as something of a surprise given that Lavarnway put up huge offensive numbers primarily while a DH in the minors prior to last season, but it speaks to how far he’s come as a defender that he’s no longer viewed just as a bat.

“I thought he’€™s handled behind the plate not only well but better than having seen him last year,” said Farrell. “I know last year was the most games he’€™d caught in his professional career, and there might have been some fatigue factor in there late in the season. He’€™s come into camp not only in good shape but he looks stronger than he did at the end of last year. He’€™s throwing the ball well behind the plate, in terms of quickness and his accuracy. He’€™s done a good job. We talk about who would be a guy that would settle into the DH slot, to me I’ve seen better at-bats when he’€™s behind the plate catching. I know there’€™s 20-plus at-bats in spring training, but that’€™s a shift for a young player to be not on both sides of the ball in game.”

Farrell also suggested that, based on the defensive strides that Mike Napoli has made at first base and the health he’s shown thus far this spring, there’s been little to suggest that there would be a need to prioritize using him as a DH.

“I haven’t seen that’s necessary,” said Farrell. “If there wasn’t as much advancement on the defensive side, then you might say that there’s a different combination of players that would fill out this roster. I’m not excluding anyone that’s in camp here, but he’s made such strides defensively — I know the question was posed early in camp, is this someone who … would you defend for him late in the game? At this point the answer is no, with what he’s shown on the field. … Everything [with his health] has gone according to what we’d anticipated and could have been hopeful for from his recovery standpoint.”

OTHER NOTES

– The Sox made five cuts, optioning knuckleballer Steven Wright and outfielder Alex Hassan to Triple-A Pawtucket and reassigning first baseman Mark Hamilton and outfielders Juan Carlos Linares and Jeremy Hazelbaker to minor league camp. Details on the performances of those five are here.

Napoli is back in the lineup today, in his first back-to-back starts of the spring.

Stephen Drew continues to make progress in his recovery from a mild concussion. If all goes well with some tests today, the Sox hope that he might be able to return to baseball activity on Thursday.

Alfredo Aceves will throw a minor league game on Wednesday (otherwise an off day for big league camp), his first game activity since pitching for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic last Friday.

John Lackey will throw a minor league game on Friday rather than facing a division rival (the Orioles).

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