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Xander Bogaerts intent on showing he belongs at top of Red Sox’ batting order 03.24.17 at 12:10 pm ET
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Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The six-hole.

It’s clearly not where Xander Bogaerts wants to be, but is most likely going to end up.

“The only thing is that I’m used to hitting second or third in the past few years, in the first inning. Now, hitting sixth is something I have to adjust to,” Bogaerts said. “First and third, you’re hitting in the first, regardless. Sixth, you’re depending on getting guys getting on. It’s just an adjustment. You have to take your time and see how it all plays out. If you want to be at the top you have to go out and prove it.

“At the end of the season hopefully I’m back up there again. If not, as long as I’m in the lineup that’s what matters.”

Judging by Thursday’s batting order, which Red Sox manager John Farrell identified as possibly representative of what you’ll see Opening Day, Bogaerts will have to get his head wrapped around the unfamiliar spot in the lineup when going up against right-handed starters.

Dustin Pedroia. Andrew Benintendi. Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez. Mitch Moreland. And then Bogaerts.

While Bogaerts did end up in the sixth spot during the Red Sox’ three-game postseason run, the majority of his time over the past two seasons have been hitting second or third, where he manned in all but two of the regular season contests.

The company line for players being moved in the lineup always involves doing whatever is best for the team. And while Bogaerts takes that tact, he also is honest about his preferences when it comes to the batting order. It was a reality that was also brought to light when telling Farrell the cleanup spot wasn’t a preferred landing spot last season.

“I always view myself as a guy who is at the top of the lineup,” Bogaerts said. “It’s a little bit tough, but the manager makes out the lineup for what he thinks his best.

“The last two years have been crazy years for me. I think I’ve proven a lot. If it’s to happen, it’s to happen. I just have to go out and prove it, like I have the last few years. You want to hit. Sixth might be waiting for a little bit. That’s the only difference, that I have to sit in the second inning as opposed to the first.”

Bogaerts said while he hasn’t talked to Farrell about the move yet, he most likely will before camp is over. One of the things he might discover when discussing the dynamic with the manager is how much Farrell actually values the sixth spot.

This was Farrell in 2013 when talking about how he views a lineup: “Personally, I think one of the most important spots in the lineup is the six-hole. A higher average, more of a line-drive type, good consistent professional at-bats is one of the thing I look for because I think that spot comes up a lot with men on base. They might be pitching around that three-, four-, five-hole and you have that guy laying there looking to put up a quality at-bat and I think there are a lot of RBI situations to be had.”

So, what is Bogaerts’ preference at the end of the day?

“Second or third for me, was good. It’s what I was used to the past few years,” he said. “It’s an adjustment I’ll have to make. I could finish leadoff and I’ll have 10 stolen bases a month. Who knows?”

Your Red Sox Opening Day catcher? Sandy Leon 03.23.17 at 10:26 am ET
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Sandy Leon (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Sandy Leon (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was plenty to read into when digesting the plans for the Red Sox Thursday.

First, the fact that Rick Porcello was pitching to Sandy Leon in a minor-league game on the back field at JetBlue Park was no coincidence. For one, John Farrell didn’t want Porcello to be pitching against the team, the Pirates, he would be facing Opening Day.

Secondly, the presence of Leon as Porcello’s battery-mate all but sealed the deal when it came to identifying who will start at catcher on Opening Day.

“I think I’ve said many times over that if we’re opening tomorrow Sandy Leon is going to be the catcher, and that hasn’t changed,” said Farrell, adding, “The last time out [Blake] Swihart had Porcello and I don’t want to get that combination of Rick and Sandy too far removed.”

Leon and Christian Vazquez are both out of options and almost certainly will be the two catchers starting on the 25-man roster, with Swihart likely heading to Triple-A Pawtucket. Offensively, Swihart has out-shined the others, totaling a .357 Grapefruit League batting average, with an .848 OPS.

Last season, Porcello limited opponents to a .223 batting average and .558 OPS with Leon catching, compared to .242/.694 with Vazquez behind the plate.

The starting lineup Farrell rolled out in the game against the Pirates also might have some meaning. Here is the Red Sox’ batting order against right-handed pitcher Drew Hutchinson: Dustin Pedroia 2B, Andrew Benintendi LF, Mookie Betts RF, Hanley Ramirez DH, Mitch Moreland 1B, Xander Bogaerts SS, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Blake Swihart C.

“Eight days until we break, or whereabouts, maybe a first look at our lineup,” Farrell said. “I’m not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We’ve kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we’re all looking forward to these last remaining game.”

While Farrell had been toying with the idea of moving Bogaerts up in the lineup, pushing Benintendi to No. 3 and Betts to cleanup, that would seem to be a potential option.

“It’s still a thought,” the manager noted. “This was the dilemma with David hitting three or four, a year ago or previous years. You’re looking for your most complete hitter, or your most productive hitter, to come up in that first inning. And that case right now, that would be Mookie. There’s some balance to all that. The fact is that this is a pretty good problem to have with the difference alignments and who might not come in the first, and worst-case scenario. More than anything, you’re looking at five or six guys capable of being in those top three slots.”

Why playing third base in the World Baseball Classic might have made Xander Bogaerts a better shortstop 03.23.17 at 9:25 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the last four weeks, Xander Bogaerts’ communication with his Red Sox teammates and coaches consisted of sporadic text messages to Brock Holt, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Other than that, the Red Sox and Bogaerts’ relationship was limited to relying to the clubhouse televisions to watch the shortstop play third base halfway around the world for Netherlands during their impressive World Baseball Classic run.

“I think it was a little bit better, because the first time I was so nervous,” said Bogaerts, referencing his previous WBC experience, in 2013.

Now, after going 5-for-22 (.227), he’s back. And, according to Bogaerts, he has never been better prepared to start a season that is just 10 days away.

“I feel pretty good, to be honest,” he said. “I feel I’m a bit more ahead of where I normally am. Probably because those games, we had to go all out and be on point with them. I felt really good out there. Just going back to shortstop now is much better.”

Bogaerts did work at shortstop while with the Netherlands, taking grounders at the position before manning third for Hensley Meulens team.

Ironically, in those days he didn’t play his primary position, Bogaerts might have actually found a launching point to become a better shortstop. Lessons learned by being around the likes of Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorious, largely considered two of the best defensive shortstops in the game, evidently left quite an impression.

“I was practicing with Simmons and Didi. They are gifted guys and they can learn you a lot,” Bogaerts said. “For me, I didn’t play short, but in my mind I definitely did.”

Bogaerts is in the Red Sox’ lineup Thursday against the Pirates, hitting sixth.

Drew Pomeranz describes his bullpen session as ‘golden’ 03.21.17 at 11:24 am ET
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Drew Pomeranz

Drew Pomeranz

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Could Drew Pomeranz actually be pitching for the Red Sox when the they take on the Tigers April 8? Judging by his reaction the last two days, he certainly thinks there’s a strong possibility.

Pomeranz has only pitched in two Grapefruit League games, having left his last one after two innings due to triceps soreness. But two days after the perceived setback, the lefty appears more optimistic than ever.

As he said he would Monday, Pomeranz executed his scheduled bullpen session Tuesday morning in preparation for his start against the Blue Jays Friday in Dunedin.

Appearing just before the clubhouse closed to the media, Pomeranz offered a thumbs-up when asked how the exercise went, followed by a succinct one-word analysis: “Golden,” he said.

Pomeranz has only pitched four total innings thus far in spring training, having been eased into action due to his elbow issue. But according to the starter, he is intending on ramping up to a four-inning outing Friday.

Even if Pomeranz is healthy, there is a strong chance he wouldn’t break camp with the team with John Farrell insinuating the club could go with eight relievers out of the gate, with the Red Sox not needing a starter until that Saturday game in Detroit.

If there are any more issues with Pomeranz’s health, the logical replacement for the start in the second game of the four-game set against the Tigers would be Kyle Kendrick.

Drew Pomeranz says he’s not planning on missing any time 03.20.17 at 3:58 pm ET
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Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Drew Pomeranz, it’s like nothing happened.

All the talk that surfaced after he exited Sunday’s game with triceps soreness — ranging from questions about his readiness for the regular season, to regrets regarding giving up Anderson Espinoza for the lefty last July — drifted off at least a bit after Pomeranz’s workout Monday.

Pomeranz said that he not only felt nothing in his triceps when throwing the day after his second Grapefruit League start, but was planning on pitching his regularly scheduled four innings Saturday without hesitation.

“I’m good,” he said. “Some mechanical thing yesterday. My arm was dragging behind me a little bit and putting pressure on a different part of my triceps more than normal. I don’t normally get there. But watching some video yesterday and this morning, I changed it and I feel fine.

“It was just mechanical. I had a feeling that’s what it was. But it was one of those thing that is hard to fix during a game. I watched a lot of video this morning, went out and played catch and was fine.”

If Pomeranz does remain on the schedule the Red Sox had planned for him (which was delayed due to the pitcher’s left elbow issues), that would necessitate him being ready for the Red Sox’ April 8 start in Detroit.

Following his adjustments Monday, he certainly feels that blueprint can still be a reality.

“I felt better today than I did yesterday pre-triceps thing. I felt fine. I feel nothing, or the same feeling from yesterday,” Pomeranz explained. “At this point I’m trying to get my mechanics down. I was trying to stay low with my arm. My arm was kind of dragging behind me a little bit. I just put a little more pressure on my triceps because my arm was behind me. It’s a bad position for your body to be in. I fixed it today and it felt great.”

Why three stars of Red Sox spring training probably won’t make team 03.20.17 at 12:42 am ET
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Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis and Kyle Kendrick.

They all have done their part. But come Opening Day, it probably won’t be good enough to avoid starting the season in the minor leagues.

Hernandez and Travis have the top two Grapefruit League OPS of any Red Sox hitters with 30 or more at-bats, while Kendrick has been the team’s best starting pitcher. But a combination of factors figure to have the trip on the outside looking in when it comes to cracking the 25-man roster.

Perhaps the entire camp’s best player to date, Hernandez, is hitting .405 with a 1.208 OPS in 37 at-bats. The 24-year-old has also shown an ability to handle second base, shortstop and third base without any issues, while also showing an impressive burst on the basepaths after losing some pounds over the offseason.

Even before notching two triples in the Red Sox’ loss to the Twins Sunday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell identified Hernandez as something more than just a utility guy.

“To think back when we acquired him for Felix Doubront, he’s grown in a number of ways,” Farrell said. “Physically he’s maturing. He’s getting bigger, he’s getting stronger. He did a great job in the offseason of getting himself in shape with morning workouts and playing at night in the Dominican Winter League. He’s an explosive player. he can run, he’s got tremendous bat speed. We have him in this competition for a utility job. There’s a lot of people … this is an everyday player if you really start to break him down and look at what he’s capable of doing. Yet he’s in a group that’s talented, that’s deep so finding his place, that’s ongoing.”

The reality at the moment is that unless something happens to somebody, Hernandez won’t beat out Josh Rutledge for the other utility infielder spot. Why? He hits left-handed.

With Brock Holt serving as the extra lefty hitter, Rutledge provides a better fit because he protects the Red Sox if Pablo Sandoval has any struggles hitting from the right side. Rutledge is also a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to make the 25-man roster or be sent back to Colorado.

Travis is hitting .333 with a 1.133 OPS and three home runs in his 33 at-bats. But with Hanley Ramirez still able to function as a hitter, and Mitch Moreland acquitting himself quite well at first base, the 23-year-old will have to wait his turn.

As for Kendrick, there might be a chance he gets a crack at the bigs. But, right now, it’s still a longshot.

If Drew Pomeranz’s sore triceps sets him back at all, that would seemingly open up a spot for Kendrick for that first time through the starting rotation. It should be noted, however, that the righty would need to be put on the 40-man roster. (That might be made possible from the Red Sox moving on from outfielder Bryce Brentz, who is out of options.)

If nothing else, Kendrick has offered the Red Sox a much-needed security blanket, allowing just three runs in his 18 Grapefruit League innings (1.50 ERA). A bonus for the Red Sox is that 32-year-old doesn’t have a opt-out in his deal until June.

Here is proof big league ballplayers hate spring training bus rides more than almost anything 03.20.17 at 12:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The goal was to offer a reprieve from the monotony that has been spring training. It worked.

The Red Sox engaged in a series of skill competitions Sunday morning, punctuated by an obstacle course. The group led by Rick Porcello, Chris Young, Pablo Sandoval, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland managed to claim victory, resulting in a raucous celebration.

But, besides the obvious spirit of competition, the impetus for what was the most spirited hour of spring training was the right for the winners to stay behind when the Red Sox travel up Interstate 75 to play the Yankees in Tampa Tuesday.

It was a reminder how much riding on a bus for 2 1/2 hours is one of these high-priced folks’ least favorite activities of the entire season.

How Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi is handling this unprecedented amount of attention 03.19.17 at 11:37 pm ET
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Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few days ago, it was a Sports Illustrated photographer telling Andrew Benintendi to jump toward the camera, lay down on the grass, and simulate making all kind of catches.

“That,” Benintendi said with a smile, “was kind of weird.”

But all of this is a little weird for the 22-year-old. At least it should be.

Benintendi has been marching through his first big league camp with perhaps more potential distractions than any Red Sox rookie before him. Sports Illustrated was just one example of those trying to tug on the outfielder’s time. Sunday it was the MLB Network. There have been at least 10 other formal requests to go along with the daily wave of media heading to his locker.

“He’s been up there with [Chris] Sale, [Rick] Porcello, [David] Price, [Dustin] Pedroia. He’s been up there with those guys. Really only Mookie [Betts, Price and Sale have had more requests,” said Red Sox media relations director Kevin Gregg. “He’s been requested like he’s been a regular player for a long time now. This is by far the most I’ve seen for a rookie.”

Is it a concern for the man who is largely responsible for helping Benintendi direct this traffic?

“No, I don’t because I think he had a good routine in place and he frequently checks in with us about his time and what he needs to do,” Gregg added. “He’s done a good job of balancing it.”

Benintendi’s manager agrees.

“I think he’s handled it well,” John Farrell said. “He’s a very even-tempered personality and having seen that because of maybe some of the additional requests take away from his personal routine, creating frustration. He’s a pretty level-headed person.”

Watching Benintendi, it’s hard to remember this is his first spring training with the big leaguers. A year ago, he was on the back fields sitting with 40,000 few Twitter followers than he currently boasts. Now, he’s weaving in and out of the land mines that come with his current existence while hitting .308 with a .981 OPS in 39 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“I remember coming over and I didn’t know what to do,” said Benintendi of the two games he played in with the major league team last spring training (going 3-for-4). “It was like a ‘What do I do with my hands?’ kind of moment. Now it’s good.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Benintendi said he was not only expecting the out-the-ordinary attention, but feels like he was equipped to handle it. Life in the spotlight as one of college baseball’s best players, along with living with the label as the game’s No. 1 prospect, offered ample warning.

“Sometimes you might feel like a bad guy saying no all the time, but we have to get our stuff done,” he said. “But I’m a lot more prepared than I was a year ago.”

What Drew Pomeranz leaving early due to triceps tightness might mean 03.19.17 at 2:41 pm ET
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Drew Pomeranz

Drew Pomeranz

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Drew Pomeranz is playing it down. But, considering where we are at in spring training, the fact that the Red Sox starter left his outing after just two innings Sunday due to left triceps tightness isn’t inconsequential.

Pomeranz, who said he first felt the issue in the first inning against the Twins, has now pitched in just two Grapefruit League outings, totaling four innings. He finished his 47-pitch outing giving up two runs on two hits.

“The first inning, my triceps got a little tight toward the end of the first one. I told the trainers in between that inning, went back out and it stayed tight the whole time. Nothing crazy,” he said. “Just a little triceps tightness. I think my workloads have been a little higher this week. Who knows. I threw that second inning and it didn’t really loosen up. We just decided to call it quits. I could’ve thrown one more but it’s still the second start and we’ll give it a little rest.”

Considering he was behind the rest of the rotation in terms of ramping up for the regular season, if nothing else this might put the lefty in a bad spot in his race against time.

With Pomeranz’s timetable now in question, more focus falls on Kyle Kendrick.

Kendrick, who doesn’t have the opportunity to opt-out of his minor-league deal until June, has been one of the best Red Sox pitchers in camp to date. He would, however, need to be put on the 40-man roster if the Red Sox want to draw back on Pomeranz heading into April.

In 18 innings, Kendrick has totaled a 1.50 ERA, striking out 16.

After the Red Sox’ 13-8 loss to the Twins, John Farrell wouldn’t rule out Pomeranz remaining on his regular schedule.

“He had some stiffness in the triceps. We took him out after two innings of work. It’s not related to the area he addressed in the offseason,” Farrell said. “But still whenever you feel discomfort in the triceps of the throwing arm, we’re going to be careful with it. He felt like he could’ve continued but we didn’t feel like it was appropriate to push it at this point. So we’ll reevaluate him when he comes in tomorrow and see what the next steps are for him. Whether that’s a bullpen on his normal day and keep him on his five day, that would be ideal, but we’ll adjust as need be.”

After encouraging outing, Steven Wright expertly breaks down his secondary pitch: ‘It’s not very fast’ 03.18.17 at 6:00 pm ET
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Steven Wright (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Steven Wright looks the same as when he marched on to an All-Star appearance last season.

Making his second Grapefruit League start Saturday, the knuckleballer pitched three hitless innings against the Twins, and how not only allowed one baserunner in five frames. This time out he worked up to 41 pitches before going back down to the bullpen for another 14.

If all keeps going down this road, Wright figures to be in line to starter Game 4 of the regular season, in Detroit.

“It’s really encouraging to see him throw as many strikes as he did,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He came back in some counts. He threw a 3-2 knuckleball in one scenario. Quietly he continues to build up the pitch count and the innings.”

Farrell added, “The biggest thing is to not be interrupted. Given where we are in the calendar, the number of opportunities left to build the pitch count, it’s critical for us to get them to the desired number, and that would be 85-90 by the time we break.”

Besides his obvious ability to throw the knuckleball, another facet of Wright’s game that has allowed for some separation is a harder-than-normal fastball for a pitcher of his type. Two seasons ago, for instance, he caught Seattle slugger Nelson Cruz looking on a 91 mph fastball.

Saturday, Wright’s heater was living at about 81-82 mph, a bit below where he typically throws it. It is a reality that he, A. acknowledges, and B. doesn’t seem all that concerned about.

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