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Wednesday notes: Ramping up Grady Sizemore, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Xander Bogaerts gets glove love, taking best available pitcher

03.19.14 at 5:07 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are about to learn just how ready Grady Sizemore is to ramp up for the regular season.

Manager John Farrell announced before Wednesday’s game with the Pirates that the man battling for a starting center field job with the defending World Series champs will play five times in six days and will play five times next week. This comes after Sizemore had three hits and looked good at the plate again on Wednesday in a minor league game against the Orioles.

Farrell didn’t get a chance to see Sizemore but heard good reports from the coaching staff that was on hand, including Double-A hitting coach Rich Gedman.

“I got the report and talking to him afterwards, he came out fine,” Farrell said. “He’€™s scheduled to go hopefully a full nine innings here [Thursday] night.”

Sizemore will start in center against the Yankees on Thursday night, get Friday off then play Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Sizemore is expected to play five times next week before a decision is made as to whether to take him north with the team.

“Next week we’€™re hopeful to have him play five times,” Farrell said. “That’€™s, there’€™s been a pretty well thought-out plan to the increase in volume. We’€™re going to take every available day to gather as much information.

“€œWe’€™re getting close to three in a row here soon. The needle still points to the north.”

Farrell quickly added that by needle, he means Sizemore is making progress every day he steps on the field, not that he will be on a plane headed for Baltimore and then Boston as the season starts.

The biggest difficulty right now for the staff and Sizemore is getting a feel for if his game action is enough to make a determination on his readiness.

‘€œ[It is] difficult relative to the situation,” Farrell said. “We’€™d like to have a crystal ball. When we signed Grady and brought him in, we knew there was going to be a number of different questions to be answered. He’€™s answered some of those. We also look at it from a big picture perspective and what gives us the best possibility to give us a productive player over the long run. that includes a gradual buildup.

“And how we get to that is, that’€™s what we’€™re still working through. Part of that is going to be accomplished in spring training and then we’€™ve got to really look at the set of combinations as I mentioned on if we get into the start of the season where it’€™s four or five days a week, that presents some unique challenges.”

Farrell was asked if there’s anything physically that would rule Sizemore out for the opener March 31 in Baltimore.

“We’€™ll probably have a better read on that in another 10 days,” Farrell said.

Sizemore has been put in motion a couple of times during spring games but did not attempt a stolen base in Wednesday’s minor league game.

“We’€™ve put him in motion a couple of times already but to say we’€™re just absolutely going to turn him loose with the green light, we’€™ll try to continue to ramp up his volume before we look to do anything situationally that might be different than what we’€™ve gone through right now. At a point in time in hopefully the near future, that all becomes ‘€˜react to the game’€™. and we’€™ve seen eveyr other phase of his game be natural and second nature to him. he’€™s advanced on a ball in the dirt, put him in motion two or three times. There’€™s no hesitation on him sliding or anything like that. so far, so good.”

Here are some other notes and quotes from John Farrell‘s pre-game chat with reporters Wednesday afternoon:

  • Will Middlebrooks returned Wednesday from a right middle finger injury suffered against the Twins last week: “Went through a full day of activity [Tuesday], threw quite a bit, both in terms of his throwing program and taking ground balls. We’ll probably go tonight and both games on the road Friday and Saturday with him. We might take a look at Herrera a little bit more at third base [Thursday] night.”
  • On Middlebrooks showing better patience at the plate this spring: “He’s laid off some borderline breaking balls a little more readily at this point in time in camp and, as we talked about before the finger injury, he’s looked more confident in the box and he’s put a number of good swings on pitches.”
  • On the development of Xander Bogaerts at shortstop this spring: “You can see it in his body language. Early on in camp, there was a lot of thought going into the situation that was in front of him, based on all the work and terminology he’s gotten from [Brian Butterfield] and I think it’s translated into some of the plays that he’s made defensively. He’s looked very good at shortstop.

    “First step quickness and the range that he’s addressing to his glove side up the middle, or we’ve seen recently a couple of balls in the 5-6 hole that he’s handled very well. Then, there’s the transfer and the release. There’s been a quicker release. He’s gotten some throws off in a very timely fashion. His internal clock has picked up as the speed of the game has, too. Those are all positive signs.

    “He came up and jumped onto the scene pretty productively. He’s had to deal with a lot on the defensive side. I’m not saying he’s not separating offense and defense but he’s still yet to hit his stride offensively.”

  • Craig Breslow will see his first game action Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota: “It’s going to be dependent on what his needs are, currently. To say we’re following the same schedule or calendar from a year ago [is not accurate]. We’re basing this all on what he’s capable of. There’s been no final determination yet. We expect him to be in the game Monday. He’s got a bullpen [Wednesday], hitters [on] Friday. We’ll gradually get to the right decision.”
  • If Breslow isn’t ready for the season, Farrell indicated that he is leaning toward taking the best available arm, not necessarily three lefties in the pen: “If there’s a scenario in which he’s going to be delayed, we’ll look to take the best available pitcher, and at that point, personally, I think a multi-inning reliever is needed.”
  • Relievers Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, who have each thrown just four innings this spring, will also ramp up their activity this weekend, starting with Uehara on Thursday: “He’s going to throw live BP [Thursday], he and Taz, and then he’ll be back on the mound Saturday. He’ll get, I’m thinking probably three more appearances next week. So, we feel like he and Taz, we’re giving them plenty of rest, but their arm strength and arms are getting in good shape.

    “We didn’t come into camp saying [back-to-back appearances] is a box we have to get checked. Each of the guys we have in the back end, they have got some experience under their belt. Back-to-backs isn’t a pressing need for their own psyche. We want to make sure guys are getting through camp in shape with good arm strength and not necessarily pushing it too hard late in camp.”

  • On Bunting against shifts: “We’ve seen a number of guys alter their game when we’ve shifted against individual hitters, they’ve started to incorporate that more into their game. We’ll adjust accordingly based on who we feel is a candidate for [shifting]. From an offensive standpoint, we value [avoiding] outs, and if you’re not proficient at [bunting], then we’d certainly like for you to continue to swing away. If it’s a guy that opposing teams are shifting against.

    “It’s going to be dependent on who’s in the box, who’s on the mound, the type of pitcher that’s on the mound. If you’re talking about a power hitter that is going to look to bunt, hopefully there’s a level a confidence in his mind that he can get a bunt down rather than running into an out.”

  • Read More: 2014 spring training, Boston Red Sox, grady sizemore, John Farrell
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