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Observations from Red Sox’ 4-2 rain-shortened loss in Disney: Mookie Betts (HR) shines, Clay Buchholz (12 hits) spotty 03.27.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The stormy weather that ended Friday’s game here at Disney was appropriate because the day for the Red Sox featured the thunder and lightning of Mookie Betts and bleak results from Clay Buchholz in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.

Betts registered his first two walks of the spring in his first two plate appearances, swiped his first base, connected for his first homer that actually cleared the wall in his third appearance before being retired minutes before the rain halted the game at 3:28 p.m ET.

Betts is now hitting .487 (19-for-39) with a gaudy .923 slugging percentage and a .512 OBP in 13 games. Betts got an inside fastball from Julio Teheran in the fourth inning and laced a homer over the wall in left for his second homer of the spring, and his first that cleared a wall.

“I don’t look at it any different than any other day,” Betts said of his continued spring tear. “I just had to do a couple more things but it’s always nice to be able to do those things and be able to affect the game in many different ways. That’s kind of the way I look at it, being able to affect the game in different ways.

“I’m pretty comfortable. I’m not going to go out and stress or anything. I feel like the year of being able to play last year got me kind of comfortable this year. Now, I’m just going in and playing and I feel like I’m just settling in with the guys.”

“He seemingly is on-time all the time at the plate,” Farrell said afterward. “He’s never seen the guy before. Second pitch is a line drive base hit. He takes a lot of good pitches off the plate to stay in command of the count for the base on balls. Obviously, the two-run homer, he’s done it a few times where guys try to pound him in and he’s so quick in there that he’s capable of that. But it’s been very exciting to see. It hasn’t been against pitchers that might not be seen during the regular season at the major league level. He’s facing some of the better pitchers that are going to be pitching this season.”

Betts’ only miscue actually ended an inning as he misjudged a fly ball with the bases loaded and two outs. Phil Gosselin took a full swing at a Buchholz pitch but the ball didn’t carry. It was headed for the grass of shallow center when Betts broke back on the swing. But Betts used his speed and quickness to sprint forward and make a diving catch.

“Plays like that are rare,” Betts said of his play from center field. “Just to get one play like that I feel like I’ll be able to do something different next time and maybe the same thing happens but as long as I catch it, that’s the main thing.”

“Full swing, he’s reading the ball of the bat and he breaks back but he recovers,” Farrell said. “Maybe made the play a little bit more difficult than he needed to but an out’s an out.”

As for Buchholz, he had the roughest outing of the spring, ten days removed from his expected start on Opening Day in Philadelphia. The Red Sox starter threw 96 pitches against the Braves and allowed 12 hits and four runs over five-plus innings, getting pulled after Kelly Johnson launched a long homer to right-center off him to open the sixth.

“He gave a lot of hits,” Farrell said. “There’s a couple different ways you can look at it. One, he made some big pitches as he had men on base quite a bit today. I thought his stuff and the definition to his pitches, were better than the line score. Now, granted there were 12 hits on the board that he gave up. I thought he had a number of opportunities where he was ahead in the count where he could’ve done a better job of finishing hitters off, particularly expanding the strike zone down on top of the plate for some chase.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox
Joe Kelly, Christian Vazquez see intersquad action in Fort Myers 03.27.15 at 2:13 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

With the Red Sox in Orlando on Friday, right-hander Joe Kelly stayed behind to pitch in an intrasquad game against Red Sox High-A players. Kelly went three innings and allowed a hit and a run, striking out five. He walked two and threw 53 pitches (31 strikes).

Kelly, who has been limited by a biceps injury, said he felt on his game.

“A lot better than it did throwing throughout camp,” he told reporters in Florida. “Definitely a good sign. . . . I didn’€™t feel tired out there today. My arm felt good. My body felt good. Three innings, 50 pitches, I was right around that. Stuffwise and healthwise, I felt really good.”

Making the outing more encouraging for Kelly was the fact that he was able to throw his offspeed pitches without pain or restriction.

“That last inning, I basically threw all sliders and curveballs, just to make sure that it had the right spin and zip on it, see how it would  feel on the arm,” Kelly said. “I threw those and felt good with throwing them.”

Kelly anticipates throwing a bullpen in a couple of days and then making another start on Wednesday. If the Red Sox want to reserve the right to backdate a potential disabled list stint to open the season ‘€“ since they won’t need a fifth starter until April 12 ‘€“ Kelly cannot pitch in front of a paying crowd. That means his next start would likely be in a minor league game.

Also, the first day a player can be placed on the DL, either that day or retroactively, is March 27, which means the first day a player can be activated during the season is April 11. This would perfectly fit a schedule that has Kelly returning to start on Sunday, April 12 against the Yankees.

Kelly wasn’t the only player to take the field in the minor league game. Catcher Christian Vazquez (elbow) caught Kelly and went 1-for-2 with a walk. Manager John Farrell acknowledged in Lake Buena Vista that Vazquez was prohibited from throwing to any base to protect the elbow until an exam is performed.

Right-hander Anthony Varvaro recorded seven outs over two innings, starting opposite Kelly. He allowed one hit and a walk while striking out one on 28 pitches.

Xander Bogaerts played all six innings in the field at shortstop. In two plate appearances, he went 1-for-2, with a strikeout looking and a double.

Shane Victorino did not play in the field. In five plate appearances between a pair of games, he went 0-for-4 with two walks, a flyout to center and three strikeouts (2 looking).

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Joe Kelly
Red Sox notes from Disney: John Farrell ‘very comfortable’ with pen, Hanley Ramirez’s ‘great’ attitude, Dustin Pedroia checks in on Mickey Mouse 03.27.15 at 12:54 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes (right) catches up with Dustin Pedroia (left) and Brian Butterfield (center) before Friday's game. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Jonny Gomes (right) catches up with Dustin Pedroia (left) and Brian Butterfield (center) before Friday’s game. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Friday’s starter Clay Buchholz in line to be the Opening Day starter in Philadelphia on April 6, the Red Sox still have to figure out his battery mate.

Christian Vazquez caught a minor league game back in Fort Myers on Friday morning and then was scheduled for a full exam, which would include an MRI on his right elbow. Manager John Farrell confirmed the plan while managing the major league team against the Braves in Disney.

“It was still planned to repeat what he did [Thursday],” Farrell said of Vazquez’s throwing program. “We’ll go through a full workup following. Then to determine if further imaging is needed or to answer questions that might be unanswered at this point and hopefully to give a little piece of mind to Christian himself.

“More lingering. There hasn’t been a setback. As a matter of fact, his throwing has increased. But because we’re in the eleventh or twelfth day and not back into game situations yet, just want to answer every possible question.”

Farrell said he still wasn’t ready to project any type of timetable for his return or whether he would be ready for the opener.

“Once we get all the information, we’ll have a better read on everything,” Farrell said. “We’re limiting him right now. He’s been catching. This is the third time he’s caught under the current conditions, just to keep his legs in shape and keep him as game-ready as possible despite the graduated throwing program we’ve got him on.”

If Vazquez isn’t ready to go, then Blake Swihart, Friday’s catcher for Clay Buchholz could certainly have a chance of making the squad when they break camp in a week.

“I think anybody in our uniform is always under consideration,” Farrell said. “We’ll see how things play out over the next eight, nine days.”

Elsewhere, David Ortiz did not make the trip to central Florida but Farrell said he and Mike Napoli made it through Thursday’s return to action without any issues. Farrell said Ortiz is scheduled to play against the Rays Saturday afternoon in Port Charlotte. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Alexi Ogando, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez
John Farrell puts the breaks on Christian Vazquez fast track for Opening Day 03.26.15 at 5:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — To listen to Christian Vazquez Thursday afternoon after his work on the back fields of JetBlue Park, Red Sox fans would feel confident in thinking their star young catcher has put his elbow issues in the past and will be back in time for the opening in Philadelphia April 6.

“I’m going to throw [Friday] but I don’t know if it’s going to be on the bases but I’m going to make my throwing program again [Friday],” the 24-year-old catcher said. “But it’s better every day and I’m happy with that. I’m going to ready to start the season, for sure. I feel better every day and I’m going to be fine.”

Was he nervous when the issue in his right elbow first presented itself earlier this month?

“I was a little bit nervous but it’s fine,” Vazquez said. “I trust my guy here and the medical staff here is great and I trust it.”

When will he back to games?

“Very soon, very soon, very soon. We have a great medical staff here and I’m going to be ready,” he said. “I threw to the bases today and I got to second base normal. I was fine and I’m going to be good.”

Then came the reality check from his manager John Farrell, who clearly appreciates the youthful enthusiasm but must err on the side of caution with such a golden arm to protect. Farrell repeated the message he delivered before the game that the team will perform more tests Friday before allowing Vazquez to progress to the next level.

“Encouraged by how he felt. To say that he’s game-ready, no, he’s not. But steps of progression are being had. Yeah, I was there when he threw. He’s going to go through a full work-up [Friday],” Farrell said. “I wouldn’t say he’s game-ready yet, but we’ll get further information upon the exam.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, John Farrell
Observations from Red Sox’ 5-4 10-inning win: David Ortiz feels ‘all right’ testing his wheels, Rusney Castillo walks off hero 03.26.15 at 5:18 pm ET
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David Ortiz jogs out a pop out in the fifth inning Thursday against the Twins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

David Ortiz jogs out a pop out in the fifth inning Thursday against the Twins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The sight of David Ortiz‘s maple bat exploding violently is not what captured the attention of Red Sox manager John Farrell in the slugger’s second at-bat Thursday at JetBlue Park. It was the sight of him legging out a fielder’s choice that drove in Mookie Betts from third base.

The ball dribbled far enough out to the right of second baseman Eduardo Escobar that he flipped onto the shortstop to put out Dustin Pedroia. But Danny Santana’s throw was not in time to get Ortiz at first.

Testing his “wheels” — as Ortiz put it afterward — was a big test for the designated hitter to pass after missing the last 10 days due to general soreness and dehydration that had zapped so much strength from his legs. Ortiz was cautiously optimistic that Thursday’s 5-4 10-inning win over the Twins at JetBlue Park as a step in the right direction for him.

“It felt all right,” Ortiz said after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. “I’m just trying to get that feeling of running.”

“Good to see them back in the lineup, for one,” Farrell said. “I thought David took some good swings, but we’ve got 10 days remaining and they’re going to get ample at-bats before we break here. The fact is the next step back after a little bit of downtime for both, and I think it’ll be good to get some continuity in our lineup.”

Ortiz wasn’t the only player returning as Mike Napoli batted in a game for the first time since an ankle injury shut him down on Mar. 18. Napoli also struck out in his first at-bat in the second inning but responded with a single in the third. Napoli finished 1-for-2.

“He got down the line well, kept from being doubled up,” Farrell said of Ortiz. “I think it was an indication that the soreness he’s been dealing with, he’s feeling better, and that was the case with some baserunning the last couple of days. So a productive day for both.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, David Ortiz
Red Sox notes: Christian Vazquez to have another exam on elbow, uncertain for opening day 03.26.15 at 12:53 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — No one needs to remind manager John Farrell just how important 24-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez is to the future plans of the Red Sox.

After feeling discomfort in his right (throwing) elbow while throwing out a runner on March 13 against the Yankees, the Red Sox decided to shut him down and rebuild his strength. He did DH a week later against the Orioles but did not play in the field. Farrell said Thursday morning that program is continuing but added, there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the opener April 6 in Philadelphia.

“He will continue to go through his throwing program,” Farrell said. “He’ll catch on the minor-league side likely [Friday]. He threw to bases the other day and was improved. He’s not 100 percent to turn him loose in an ‘A’ game yet.”

Vazquez is batting just .176 in six games this spring.

“The last game in which he played, he felt something when he threw out a runner in his elbow. We backed him down. When he began to throw again, there was a little bit of a guarded approach on his behalf, and it affected his throwing mechanics where he’s starting to get sore in his tricep, so we altered his throwing program just to get back to his normal arm slot and natural way of throwing. We’re building that back up right now.”

Farrell said if Vazquez comes through clean on another medical test of his elbow, then the chance exists he could throw to the bases to test it out on Friday.

“That’s to be determined. He’s going to go through another exam [Friday] to determine that,” Farrell said, adding that an MRI is a possibility. “We’re not going to rule that out. That’s a possibility for [Friday]. We’ll determine that after further internal exam.”

Naturally, the question came up as to whether Vazquez would be ready for Opening Day against the Phillies.

“Probably by the weekend we’ll have a more clear read on just that,” Farrell said. “We caught some guys back-to-back — no more than five innings when we did have a guy behind the plate on consecutive days. I don’t think it was workload-related. It was one throw that he felt it on.

“He’s improving. Anytime a player misses time, there’s some level of concern because of the talents that they are, and a player’s health is first and foremost. But there’s still some steps to accomplish.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Shane Victorino
Red Sox option Garin Cecchini, 3 others, while sending Henry Owens to minor league camp; Release Mitchell Boggs 03.26.15 at 11:12 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox continue to make moves to round their Opening Day roster into form.

Before Thursday’s game against the Twins, the team made a series of transactions to trim the roster down.

Outfielder Bryce Brentz and third baseman/outfielder Garin Cecchini were among four players optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Also optioned to the PawSox were right-handed pitchers Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill.

‘€œWe’€™re going to move him around defensively With the configuration of our big league roster and certainly with Pablo entrenched at third, we’€™re going to look to create some defensive versatility with Garin, and that will include first base, that will include left field,” manager John Farrell said Thursday.

“The way he’€™s swung the bat when he came up last September and the way he’€™s swung the bat this spring, it looks like his bat will be ready before a defensive opening at third base is going to present itself. He’€™s embraced it and I think he’€™s seen a number of players go before him that the versatility has created, it can allow them to break through and land a spot on the big league club, whether it’€™s [Daniel] Nava adding first base, whether it’€™s Mookie [Betts] going to the outfield, Brock Holt. That list is growing by pretty tangible examples. You create some versatility, you make yourself that much more valuable.

“Games played, he’€™s going to get reps at all three positions. What that ultimate breakdown is remains to be seen. Initially there may be some reps at the other two to catch up a little bit.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, garin cecchini, henry owens
John Farrell throws a little ‘camouflage’ into the starting rotation mystery while Red Sox look to run more in ’15 02.27.15 at 1:38 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — When three of his projected starting pitchers wound up on the first pitching rotation charts of spring training inside the JetBlue clubhouse Friday morning, John Farrell had some explaining to do. Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello were listed to pitch against Northeastern in the spring debut Tuesday afternoon, with Wade Miley set to take the hill against Boston College hours later in the nightcap.

Was it a grand conspiracy to hide who he feels is the club’s No. 1 starter from the group of Porcello, Buchholz and Miley?

“Camouflage, it’s a big thing,” Farrell joked.

Farrell then offered the more serious explanation in advance of spring games.

“We also have a doubleheader,” Farrell said. “It’s a matter of getting a number of guys to the mound as early as we can.”

Joe Kelly will start the Grapefruit League opener on Thursday against the Twins and Justin Masterson, who throws live BP on Monday, would be expected to start against the Marlins on Friday.

“We’ve got an overall plan with getting all five guys, really 10 or 11 guys stretched out as starters, to a point in camp where innings are going to be a little less available outside the initial five. We’ll get into that in due time,” Farrell said.

Farrell was asked what will matter most this spring when determining the order of his starters.

“Merit is one. You factor in what’s taken place either the year or years before,” Farrell said. “That’s one factor. You’re also looking at, when you start to slot guys in, if there are pitchers that have anticipated higher innings projections you try to stagger them so you’re not potentially over-taxing a bullpen on consecutive days. And then you’re trying to break things up. If you’re in a three-game series, are giving different looks, based on the style of that starter.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell
Dustin Pedroia can see where David Ortiz is coming from: ‘Baseball’s not a drive-through’ 02.26.15 at 5:05 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia could only laugh.

When the Red Sox second baseman heard David Ortiz go off on Wednesday about new MLB pace-of-game rules.

“I think it was the first time he heard of it,” Pedroia said Thursday. “The first reaction is always pretty good [from Ortiz]. I just laughed. You never know. That’s his job, though. His job is to hit and, in my mind, I have to go play defense and concentrate on a lot of things. But, when you’re putting a new rule and his main focus is to be in the box, that’s his home. You know what I mean? I can side with him on why he’s upset, but he’ll be fine.

“I’m pretty sure the umpires aren’t going to start yelling at you. They understand. Everybody that’s on that field loves baseball. They don’t want to make it a hurry-up. Baseball’s not a drive-through. We’ve got to play the game and they know that. Obviously, if you get fined, you get fined but we’re trying to play to win and that’s the way I look at it.”

Pedroia was asked if he thought speeding up the game would be good for the game.

“Is it good for the game? We’ll find out. I don’t think we’ve played under the rules yet,” Pedroia said, adding, “I don’t really try to think about it. I don’t know if I get out. I adjust my batting gloves and tighten them. My only thing as a hitter, and obviously the pitchers do it too, we’re trying to think about how and what we’re going to do the next pitch. Obviously, some guys take a little bit longer and some guys don’t. I think that’s the fun part about the game. In our mind, that’s the competition. Him [the pitcher] trying to find a way to get me out and me trying to find a way to get a hit off him. However long that takes, that’s how long it takes. We have a job to do and we’re trying to execute and we know the pitcher has a job to do. I don’t think I take that long.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as everybody’s saying. I’m sure the pitcher and the hitter are going to be ready to play. That’s the way I look at it. I’m sure there’s not going to be a pitch thrown and I’m going to be hanging out in the other on-deck circle. We’re still going to play baseball. That’s the way I look at it.”

Even Red Sox pitchers like Joe Kelly could see where Ortiz was coming from.

“We play a ton of games,” Kelly said. “I understand exactly where he’s coming from. As a hitter, being a professional hitter, it’s probably one of the toughest things to do in all of sports. He’s not taking his time just to take his time. He’s out there and he’s one of the best left-handed hitters in this game. He’s thinking about what the pitcher is trying to do to him, and vice versa. I’m out there on the mound trying to read swings. If I throw a fastball inside and the hitter feels a little bit uncomfortable with his [swinging] motion, I might take a step off the mound and take a breath, ‘All right, is he trying to fool me or is he really going to get beat there today?’ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia
John Farrell says ‘it’s likely’ Shane Victorino returns to switch-hitting this season 02.26.15 at 3:29 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — If all goes as planned, Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting this season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that he and the staff have talked to the outfielder about the plan, which will include spring training at-bats from the left side of the plate.

Victorino gave up hitting left-handed late in the 2013 season when he injured his hip running into a wall while chasing a fly ball along the right field line.

“It’s likely that he hits left-handed in games,” Farrell said. “If you think back to ’13 late in the year, he switched solely to the right side because of some physical restrictions. With those being freed up now, the left side of the plate comes back into play.”

In 2014, force to hit right-handed against right-handed pitching, he managed to bat just .241 with a .283 on-base percentage in 90 plate appearances over 27 games. Lifetime, Victorino is .268 hitter with a .329 on-base percentage as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching.

Farrell said the work will begin as soon as possible so Victorino can get up to game speed with left-handed hitting.

“Every guy is going to be a little bit different. He’s going to take all the extra work that he can physically tolerate. I think until we get into games, it’ll probably be a better read on how many number of at-bats left-handed it would require [in spring training]. But if you think about two years ago in ’13 in spring training, I don’t know if he got a hit in spring training. Open up in New York, he’s got three line drive base hits the first day of season. So again, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with that side of the plate, taking some pitches and taking some at-bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB
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