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Red Sox have plenty of questions to be answered heading into final week 03.24.17 at 10:32 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been quiet. Almost too quiet.

While the Red Sox were lulling you to sleep throughout this marathon of a spring training, some possible concerns crept up. And now, with just about one week left, John Farrell’s team is hoping these final few Grapefruit League games will allow for some answers.

Here are the still undefined issues facing these Red Sox heading into April 3:


It was assumed that Hanley Ramirez would have played the field by now. He hasn’t.

While Ramirez’s right shoulder hasn’t presented a problem when it comes swinging a bat, with the righty hitter hitting .318 with a .971 OPS in his 44 Grapefruit League at-bats, there hasn’t been any opportunity to brandish his first baseman’s glove.

Because Ramirez can now occupy the designated hitter spot, this isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it does through a monkey wrench into the Red Sox’ plans. If the shoulder continues to eliminate opportunities for Ramirez to play first, Mitch Moreland would become an everyday player while not allowing to use Chris Young as a DH vs. lefties.

It could still work out, but the concern would be over-exposing Moreland, while not being able to take advantage of Young’s mastery against southpaws.


The good news for the Red Sox was that Tyler Thornburg resurfaced in a minor league game Friday and looked pretty good. After a few days down, the reliever who struck out 90 batters in 67 innings last season, will be back at it.

If all goes well, Thornburg could be relied on come Opening Day. But will he represent the kind of eighth-inning security blanket Farrell will be looking for?

Joe Kelly would seem to be the Red Sox’ back-up plan in the eighth, but he has had some ups and downs of late, most recently giving up two runs in an inning against minor leaguers Friday. The righty would still seem to be first in line after closer Craig Kimbrel and Thornburg.


Pomeranz and Farrell insist the lefty is on target to make his first scheduled regular season start, which would figure to come April 9 in Detroit. He did manage to rebound from a rough first two innings against the Blue Jays Friday to turn in an encouraging four-frame outing, offering optimism heading into the final week.

Pomeranz said on the Bradfo Sho podcast that two weeks ago he finally felt the stem cell injection shot kick in, and Friday offered the opportunity to rediscover his mechanics.

But Pomeranz certainly hasn’t hit the ground running like Steven Wright, who had been on the same delayed track as the southpaw. For peace of mind, it would certainly behoove the starter and his team to build on the momentum built in his last two innings.


With the possible exception of Dustin Pedroia — who is 13-for-26 this spring — here hasn’t been a hotter hitter than Sandoval. Entering Saturday, the third baseman was hitting .362 with a 1.065 OPS.

But the problem is the Red Sox still don’t know what they have with Sandoval against left-handers. He only has eight at-bats against lefties this spring, collecting one hit. And while Farrell, Sandoval and hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez can relay all kinds of optimism that the switch-hitter will be serviceable from the right side, there still has to be some trepidation.

It took Farrell a while that first month in April, 2015 before understanding that Sandoval needed to be pinch-hit for against lefties late in games, and it cost the Red Sox. The guess is that if Josh Rutledge and/or Young are available vs. left-handers in the final few innings, in games the Red Sox are tied or trailing in, Sandoval might get the hook.


Farrell has made it very clear Leon is being viewed as the starting catcher, beginning with the opportunity to catch Rick Porcello on Opening Day. But there has to be some uneasiness about which switch-hitter the Red Sox are going to get, the one that tore up the American League in June, July and August, or the September version of Leon.

Leon has looked better at the plate of late, collecting hits in each of his most recent four Grapefruit League games. But he is just 3-for-19 vs. right-handed pitching, having collected three hits in four at-bats when hitting from the right side against lefties.


Considering he hasn’t even played long-toss yet, probably not really soon.

Right now, considering the need to start from scratch when he does start throwing from a mound, a May return would seem to be the earliest option.

It’s been three weeks, so what should we make of David Price’s situation? 03.22.17 at 10:44 am ET
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David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twenty-one days ago, the first MRI was taken on David Price’s left elbow. It wasn’t too long after that it was determined that a second opinion would be needed.

Two days later, Price and the Red Sox were celebrating the good news: no surgery, no PRP injection and just 7-10 days of rest before potentially launching the road back to pitching again.

But here we sit here. No games. No bullpen sessions. No long toss. Only some throwing into a net.

So, what should we make of where Price is at?

The pitcher offered this explanation to WEEI.com when asked about the situation.

“It’s making sure whenever I come back, it’s to stay back, not to be back,” Price said. “I know that some people can’t understand that.”

The Red Sox are still proclaiming that there is nothing to see. He went through another check-up Tuesday and the plan remains the same.

“Strength gains have been had but we’re going to continue to stay in the strengthening phase of this,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’re continuing to get his arm moving in the cage, in the workout room. But as far as initiating a full-blown throwing program, we’re not at that point yet. We’re getting closer. That’ll be happening ideally in the coming days.”

Farrell then added, “You go into these kind of open-ended. You’re not really sure what specific day it’s going to take place. You don’t really attach yourself to a calendar. You’ve got to listen to the pitchers situation, how his body is responding and what the objective tests are telling us. He’s getting closer to getting a ball back in his hand.”

The way this is unfolding, there is a very real chance we don’t see Price pitch in April. And as long as there continues to be no news of an injection, or change of course, that would be OK.

The thinking is that as much as Price might want to pitch, this is about getting a guy who has thrown more pitches than anybody in baseball over the past three years to a good place come the final two months. Thanks to the Red Sox’ rotation, they seemingly have that luxury.

It’s not what people want to hear, but in this case it has become a necessity.

One American League manager recently surmised that Price’s postseason struggles might be, in part, due to the tractor pull that is getting through the season. It might not be the be-all, end-all when it comes to the postseason narrative, but it does make some sense.

There is nothing wrong with Price not pitching 200 innings. There is everything wrong with not being able to lean on your $30 million-a-year pitcher when it counts the most. And the guess here is that the Red Sox have swerved off onto that road when dealing with this injury.

It was time to think differently about Price. And that’s why we’re still sitting here waiting.

“He has kept his arm moving,” Farrell said. “He’s incorporated some throwing, he’s incorporated some plyometrics with the arm and movement as you would throwing a baseball. He’s not static or stagnant in terms of the full range of motion used to throw a baseball.”

Chris Sale gives Yankees another dose of Chris Sale 03.21.17 at 9:51 pm ET
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Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

TAMPA — In case you didn’t know, Chris Sale owns the Yankees. And if you didn’t realize such a fact, the Red Sox starter offered another pretty good reminder Tuesday night.

In games that actually count, no pitcher since ERA has been an actual stat has had more success against the Yankees than Sale, totaling a 1.17 ERA in 10 career games (7 starts) vs. New York.

This one didn’t count, but offered the same kind of result.

Sale absolutely dominated the Yankees in making his fourth Grapefruit League start, striking out 10 in six innings. He did surrender a two-run homer in his final frame to Matt Holliday, but that hardly diminished the dominance the lefty showed in leading the Red Sox to 4-2 win at Steinbrenner Field.

“It felt good,” Sale said. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. You guys saw, just felt good, got a good rhythm going, just kind of following Sandy’s lead. He knows these guys on the other end of the line extremely well, so just follow his game plan and see where it takes us.”

Not hurting matters was the opportunity for Sale to get a bit closer to pitching in a regular season environment, performing in front of biggest crowd of spring training, against a Yankees lineup that wasn’t far off from what he might be seeing in the regular season.

“Obviously anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York,” Sale said. “Even from the outside looking in, you can see it, you can sense the competitive drive on these teams and in this series. Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park, a night game, gives it more of a regular season feel. It’s nice, it’s what we’re here for, we’re here to get ready for the regular season. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular season game, the better off we’re going to be.”

Sale, who struck out multiple batters in each of his first four innings, figures to get two more spring training starts before being slotted in to the Red Sox’ April 5 tilt against Pittsburgh at Fenway Park.

“He was very good, he added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago when it was more fastball changeup,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His breaking ball to both sides of the plate, down underneath to some right-handed swings. And anytime he needed to, he’s got such good feel for the change-up to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive.”

Surpise, surprise: Red Sox might be breaking camp with just four starters 03.20.17 at 2:48 pm ET
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Robby Scott

Robby Scott

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So much has been made of the competition for the last spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen. The reality is that, for at least a few days, it might not make a difference.

Prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Orioles Monday at JetBlue Park, John Farrell insinuated there could be a scenario where the team breaks camp with eight relief pitchers and just four starters.

It makes some sense.

With the off day after the opener, the Red Sox wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 8.

Who that starter might be is dependent on Drew Pomeranz, whose status for the beginning of the schedule is in doubt due to his latest setback, triceps soreness. Pomeranz said Monday he is planning to not only make his next scheduled Grapefruit League start, Saturday, but would target throwing four innings.

There is a chance Kyle Kendrick (who pitched well again Monday) could replace Pomeranz that first time through. Still, come Opening Day, the roster will see some combination of Fernando Abad, Robby Scott, or Noe Ramirez.

Abad would seem to have the upper hand in making the team right now because, unlike the others, he is out of options.

Fernando Abad has no regrets about playing in World Baseball Classic, but should he? 03.20.17 at 9:24 am ET
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Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fernando Abad strolled through the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning wearing big smile on his face, along with his brand new t-shirt brandishing the Dominican Republic flag.

Abad was fresh off his stint with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, with his countrymen getting eliminated Saturday night.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I felt good to represent my country. I was happy to be part of it. [The Red Sox] know what I can do, so I wanted to go there and represent my country if I got the call.”

During WBC run, Abad pitched four times and didn’t give up a run, going 2 1/3 innings

So, what now?

Abad re-enters camp in a hot competition for the final spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen, competing against fellow lefty Robby Scott. Scott has pitched in seven Grapefruit League games, giving up no runs on six hits over six innings.

Abad still possesses the upper-hand, with Scott the only one of the two still with options.

It’s a decision that will figure to be made prior to 2 p.m. on March 29, which is the deadline for the Red Sox to cut ties with Abad and still have to pay him just 1/4 of his $2 million contract. Any commitments after that time and the team will be on the hook for the full salary.

“I do what I have to do when they give me the ball so I can be part of the team,” said Abad. “Like I felt with Minnesota last year, I feel like that now.”

Red Sox get Saturday morning surprise with David Price throwing a baseball 03.11.17 at 10:18 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell’s last line about David Price when meeting with the media Saturday morning offered a dose of reality.

“We’re still a ways from getting him off a mound,” said the Red Sox manager regarding his starter, who is slowly returning after a bout of elbow stiffness.

But, still, there was a dose of good news for the Red Sox and their lefty starter thanks to a few simple throws in the batting cages.

“I know yesterday we talked about increasing the rehab and putting some plyometrics in place. But he actually went and threw in the cage today, about 25 throws and the range of motion, the freeness to the movement is all positive,” Farrell said. “Granted, we recognize we’re at the early stages right now, but it’s a good day for David.”

Farrell added, “All of the early phase of throwing are going to be short, controlled effort and energy. We’re not even mapping out distances right now. We’re more interested in seeing how his arm responds to even the light throwing. … It was always talked about. There was always a potential to put a ball in his hand even as I mentioned that yesterday. But then there was thought to continue his strengthening, getting the arm moving in a normal pattern. As good as he feels, let’s put a ball in his hand and throw lightly. That was a positive step.”

Farrell points out that there is a long way to go for Price, who last threw off a mound on the last day of February before experiencing the left elbow discomfort.

“I’m not really focused on any kind of timeline,” the manager noted. “He’s going to be out there when he’s ready, first available. There’s still work to do. The biggest key for us is when he gets to the point of aggressive long-toss and getting on the mound, that’s where the more extension to the arm is going to come into play. That will be a big phase in the return.

“He’s been progressing here since the day he came in sore. But that’s all relative, relative to how he feels today and what’s being asked of him from a rehab and throwing program standpoint. We’re still a ways from getting him off the mound.”

An undershirt-less Sam Travis continues to build on his spring training legend 03.06.17 at 2:33 pm ET
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Sam Travis (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Sam Travis (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Sam Travis hit a home run Monday. Ho hum.

The three-run blast against one of the best relievers in baseball a year ago, Houston’s Chris Devenski, boosted Travis’ Grapefruit League batting average to .357, having come into the the exhibition game in West Palm Beach, Fla. with a 1.333 OPS in his previous six games.

If that kind of success sounds familiar, it’s for a reason. Travis dominated in his 18 spring training games last season, finishing with a batting average of .469 with a 1.147 OPS.

What continues to impress regarding Travis is his ability to hit the ball hard, even when making outs, against lefties and righties. Devenski, for instance, only allowed a single home run to a right-handed hitter in 205 plate appearances in 2016.

And while it’s still early, and pitchers are prioritizing mechanics over making outs, it’s tough to ignore what Travis is doing.

This is the reason the Red Sox dug in on Travis when not wanting to block him from the major leagues with even a three-year contract for Edwin Encarnacion. It’s why even when he wasn’t hitting for a lot of power in the minor leagues, folks in the organization raved about what he would be.

In some corners, he was nicknamed “Captain Caveman” because, in part, he doesn’t wear batting gloves over an undershirt. When pressed on why he doesn’t wear anything under his uniform top, the 23-year-old only said, “No reason, really. That’s how I’ve always done it since I was in Little League.”

Will Travis make the Red Sox out of spring training? Not unless there’s an injury to Hanley Ramirez or Mitch Moreland. But what he continues to do is make the team’s blueprint for life beyond 2017 look pretty good. (Moreland is on a one-year deal, while Ramirez is signed through 2018 with a vesting option for 2019, having to total 1,050 plate appearances in ’17-18.)

(To read more about Dave Dombrowski’s comments on prioritizing keeping Travis, click here.)

Hanley Ramirez’s shoulder is causing all kinds of problems 03.02.17 at 10:45 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hanley Ramirez might not like it, but he just landed with the best-case scenario.

After talking to Moises Alou, the general manager of Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, it was determined that Ramirez would be going to represent his country in the tournament due to the slugger’s lingering right shoulder stiffness.

“We settled some points,” said Ramirez, who is being replaced on the DR roster by Jean Segura. “Tried to wait to recover and how we were going to do it, maybe I could meet the team in Miami, give me a week to stay here and get healthy. He told me he wanted the chemistry of the team, he wanted everyone together from the first day. I said ‘Yeah, that’s fine. If you don’t find somebody, you can call me.’ I leave my door open to go but that’s his decision and I just have to get healthy.”

It was the right move, especially now we know that this whole shoulder thing was a bit worse than previously thought.

Ramirez also took it slow leading into last season’s spring training games, not initially throwing during the first few workouts on the back fields at JetBlue Park. But by the time March 2 came around, he was at first base with clearance to throw away.

Exactly one year later, Ramirez offered some comparison when asked if the achy right shoulder felt the same.

“That’s a little different because last year I was able to throw. This year is a little bit different,” said Ramirez, who explained he started feeling the tightness a “couple of days” after arriving in camp. “Right now we’re looking good.”

Without the pressures of the WBC, or even having to play first base, Ramirez can now take his time. Which is good, because it appears as though he is going to need it.

“It’s a long spring,” said Ramirez, who hit his first home run of the spring Thursday. “We’re going to go slowly. Like I said, I’ve got to be ready for April.”

We still don’t know if Hanley Ramirez is heading to World Baseball Classic, but it sure sounds like he thinks he is 02.28.17 at 10:18 am ET
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Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell didn’t have any answers Tuesday morning. Those will have to come over the next few days.

The Red Sox manager explained that there has been no further definition when it comes to whether or not Hanley Ramirez will join Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Ramirez, who is slated to leave camp to join Team DR in Miami Friday, still hasn’t played first base, with his throwing shoulder remaining somewhat of an issue due to stiffness. He continues to serve as the Red Sox primary designated hitter in Grapefruit League games.

“He’s in the lineup again today so how we get through the next couple of days and what his ultimate role will be in the WBC, that is still yet to be determined,” Farrell said.

Would he go to the WBC if first base is taken off the table?

“If that’s the role that they intended for him, I don’t know how we can say no to that,” Farrell explained. “Depending on how he comes out of the next couple of days, we have to figure out how severe it is, what the risk would be from a health standpoint and that’s going to require more discussions than just between Hanley and I.”

As their manager explained, the Red Sox’ hands are tied a bit when it comes to steering Ramirez away from the WBC, with Major League Baseball making it a priority for players who have already committed to going.

“For players who are on the roster, something has to be substantiated,” Farrell said. “It can’t be something that is arbitrary that says, ‘At this point, I don’t want to go.’ He’s getting treatment every day. As of today, I can’t sit here and say he’s not going.”

Farrell added: “My understanding is that it’s not dependent on the name of the player. Once a player agrees to go, we can’t stand in the middle of that and keep them from going. If health is the one thing that starts to get in the middle of it, then it’s more of a discussion and more than just one person making that decision.”

Ramirez was later asked if he thinks he’s going to the WBC and he responded, “Yeah, why not?”

To read more on how the Red Sox should prioritize keeping Ramirez in Fort Myers, read my column by click here.

Here is where you can watch Red Sox take on Northeastern 02.23.17 at 1:04 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — No Red Sox Radio Network? No NESN? No problem.

If you want to watch at least some of the Red Sox spring training opener against Northeastern, you’ll have to go to the Major League Baseball Facebook page, where MLB is using Facebook Live to stream the first two innings.

(Click here to go to the MLB Facebook page.)

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