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Koji Uehara says getting ready for Opening Day ‘might be close,’ but optimistic 03.18.15 at 12:43 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Koji Uehara has been through this hamstring thing before, although the reliever noted that this tweak of his left leg wasn’t as serious as his pull a few years back in Baltimore.

The closer did, however, note that this setback does add some uncertainty to his preparation.

“I feel that it might be a close call but I should be ready,” said Uehara through a translator when asked if he thought he would be ready for April 5.

Uehara, who has pitched three times this spring, said locking in on a return date was “nothing that I can predict right now.” And in regard to how many outings he might need to be ready for the regular season, the righty noted, “It’€™s something that the coaches will probably decide. I could probably be ready without even appearing in a game.”

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Depth watch: Why Red Sox are trying out Matt Barnes in bullpen; backup starters power rankings 03.18.15 at 10:34 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The initial reaction to John Farrell‘s subtle suggestion that Matt Barnes would be working as a reliever going forward was that it might be a move executed in part because of Koji Uehara’s hamstring injury. (He remains day-to-day, according to Farrell.)

Not necessarily.

The primary impetus for Barnes once again living the life as a reliever is because the Red Sox are searching for some velocity out of their ‘pen. It was one of the reasons Alexi Ogando was prioritized over someone like Burke Badenhop in the offseason, and is a pretty good explanation for drawing back on the UConn product’s work as a starter.

Brandon Workman could have been that guy, but he hasn’t rediscovered the velocity of 2013.

Farrell talked the other day about the change in offense approach due to powerful bullpen arms, with lineups not necessarily wanting to drive fading starters out of the game because of the heat waiting for them out of the ‘pen. Before the addition of Barnes, that sort of dynamic seemed somewhat lacking out of the Red Sox relievers.

According to Fangraphs.com, the Red Sox relief pitchers were dead last in average velocity, clocking in (for fastballs) at 91.4 mph.

Another less pressing concern for the Red Sox is the ability of Barnes to pitch more than one inning.

Right now it appears as though Tommy Layne is going to make this team, leaving him, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica and Ogando as more-times-than-not one-inning guys. Anthony Varvaro and Craig Breslow have the capability to extend themselves, with Varvaro going beyond one inning six times last season, and Breslow doing it on 10 occasions.

With the wake-up call that Joe Kelly’s sore biceps gave the Red Sox earlier this week — (they won’t know if he will make his start Sunday until throwing off a mound Thursday) — it’s also probably a good time to see who would be first to fill in if rotation spots did start opening up.

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Red Sox trim roster to 51 by shifting 6 players to minor leagues 03.18.15 at 9:39 am ET
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Sean Coyle

Sean Coyle

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox on Wednesday trimmed their big league roster to 51 players by moving a half-dozen to the minor league camp.

Infielders Sean Coyle and Travis Shaw were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, while first baseman/outfielder Brian LaHair and right-handed pitchers Miguel Celestino, Keith Couch and Noe Ramirez were reassigned to minor league camp.

Of the 51 players remaining on the major league roster, 38 are from the 40-man roster and 13 are non-roster invitees.

The Red Sox continue Grapefruit League play Wednesday with a game at JetBlue Park against the crosstown rival Twins.

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Observations from JetBlue Park: Koji Uehara hurts hamstring; Matt Barnes in bullpen competition; Joe Kelly not worried 03.17.15 at 5:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The story of the game played at JetBlue Park was a Red Sox team that made four errors, with their first three pitchers — Clay Buchholz, Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman — giving up 10 runs on the way to an 11-3 loss to Jonny Gomes’ Braves.

But it was before and after the contest that the real pertinent news surfaced …

— Koji Uehara, who was expected to pitch an inning Tuesday, was scratched after hurting his left hamstring prior to the game.

“He strained his left hamstring running this morning, that’s why we held him out,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He’s day-to-day right now … Again, it’s going to be a few days before we test him again and before we get him back into a game.”

Uehara has pitched in three games, two of which he allowed runs.

— The Red Sox appear to be shifting their approach when it comes to Matt Barnes, who allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in his one inning of work.

Instead of continuing to stretch out Barnes as a starter, the righty will get more usage over the coming days in shorter stints in order to see his potential effectiveness as a reliever.

“I wanted to take a look at him earlier in the game against more of the ‘A’ type lineups as opposed to the first couple of times out and today was the first exposure to that,” Farrell said. “We’re still taking a look at him in shorter stints right now.”

The manager added, “I thought he was amped up a little bit, in particular the first couple of curveballs he threw, it looked like he overthrew them a couple of times. And I think there was some adrenaline in there. As we shift his role and talk a little bit more about more frequent outings, he probably looks into that a little bit. There’s some legitimate competition there. But we’re not making the final decision on the roster today.”

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Jonny Gomes has reminder for Hanley Ramirez: Playing left field at Fenway isn’t easy 03.17.15 at 2:02 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes (Getty Images)

Jonny Gomes heads into 2015 with the Braves. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was only for 1 1/2 seasons, but few have managed the left field wall at Fenway Park as well as Jonny Gomes.

It wasn’t by accident, and it wasn’t just because he was afforded a head start with the left field wall at JetBlue Park.

“Well, I wouldn’€™t call myself an ambassador by any means,” said Gomes, now an outfielder for the Braves. “I think I played that wall pretty well. But I think the cat is out of the bag that that wall is way different. From the padding to the net, the dimensions, feet-wise, are the same. I wouldn’€™t be in any hurry to master JetBlue’€™s wall for Fenway’€™s wall, but I guess it’€™s a good starting point.”

So, what would be his recommendation to the Red Sox‘ new left fielder, Hanley Ramirez?

“I wouldn’€™t say experience as much as being extremely open and having the work ethic to learn it,” Gomes said. “That wall hasn’€™t moved in 100-plus years and balls are bouncing off that wall pretty similarly to the way they did 100 years ago. At the same time, it’€™s so foreign from anywhere else. It’€™s not like grabbing a wall and throwing a ball off it. There’€™s a lot to be learned off that wall.”

Gomes, who was hitting third for the Braves‘ visit to JetBlue Tuesday, was not only good at playing the Fenway wall, but in some ways he was an innovator.

Through working on the wall throughout his first spring training, Gomes incorporated a strategy never seen before from Red Sox left fielders — catching balls directly off the wall instead of letting them bounce.

The thinking behind the ploy was that little harm can be done if the ball is missed and gets away in front of the fielder. It would usually be a double, anyway.

It’s one of the many aspects of playing left field that outfield/first base coach Arnie Beyeler has been working with Ramirez on throughout the exhibition season. (Although the new left fielder hasn’t truly been tested too many times thus far.)

“He was very creative out there, catching the ball off the wall,” Beyeler said of Gomes. “He started working on that, practicing that. That’s something that if you don’t play enough games out there you’ll waste your time trying to do it and you create more problems. He sure opened an awareness of how you can control the game a little better.”

Now, it’s Gomes’ legacy that Beyeler is currently trying to pass on to Ramirez. (Note: Ramirez made a nice running catch in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game, cutting in front of center fielder Mookie Betts.)

“The biggest thing that stands out to me is catching a ball off the wall, but you have to work on it,” the coach said. “You can’t go out there and do it, and then you still have to know speed of the runners, situations and if you get caught in between on a ball you change your risk/return on when you do something like that. He was really smart about that and had all kind of game awareness from that standpoint.

“It’s going to take time. It may take two or three years of getting to know all that stuff out there because you just don’t get a lot of those balls out there to you. That’s why we hit all those crazy balls out there to him, so it doesn’t seem all that different and you can let your ability take over and react instead of thinking about it.”

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Red Sox injury updates: Joe Kelly biceps feeling better; Christian Vazquez dealing with elbow issue 03.17.15 at 10:30 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So far, the Red Sox have gotten the news they were looking for in regards to Joe Kelly.

The Sox starter, who left his outing Monday with stiffness in his right biceps, came to JetBlue Park feeling better. While it is still uncertain if Kelly will make his scheduled start Sunday, Tuesday’s check-up suggested no MRI would be needed at the current time.

“He comes in and feels improved over yesterday,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “There’€™s still a little bit of soreness there but we’€™re going to get his arm moving with some light catch. He went through a full workup here today. There’€™s no imaging at this point recommended or required. So what this means in terms of his next turn is yet to be determined.”

Farrell added: “The next couple of days will determine where he’€™s going to be in terms of rotation. He’€™s scheduled to start on Sunday. We will get him off the mound prior to the next time he gets into a game. There will probably be a couple of days of some rest, some rehab and maybe some light throwing. If that extends him out the sixth day, that’€™s possible. But we’€™ll know more in the coming days.”

While Kelly’s injury was for all to see, the one Christian Vazquez has been dealing with had been kept quiet until Farrell’s media session Tuesday.

Vazquez hasn’t played since feeling some soreness in his throwing elbow after gunning down a baserunner in the Red Sox’ meeting with the Yankees Friday night.

The catcher did feel well enough to throw some Monday, but still isn’t at the point where he is comfortable re-entering games. Vazquez will get at-bats on the Fenway South back fields in the coming days.

“He’€™s got a little bit of soreness in his elbow so we backed him out of games,” the manager noted. “He’€™s going to get some at-bats over on the minor league side tomorrow and Thursday. But with almost three weeks still remaining in camp we don’€™t want to push this by any means and give this a chance to calm down.

“He threw yesterday but not to where he’€™s without thought, where he’€™s really cutting it loose. As well as he throws and as valuable as his arm is to him as a player and to us behind the plate, we’€™re just backing him down a couple of days.”

Farrell also was optimistic that Rusney Castillo — who hasn’t played since injuring his left oblique during the Red Sox’ game against Boston College — might be in the lineup Wednesday. Castillo told WEEI.com Monday he did feel 100 percent.

“He’€™s going to go through a full workout today, including throwing to the bases and I’€™ll get a chance to meet with him when he comes out of that,” Farrell said. “But we’€™re still targeting tomorrow.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, christian vazquez, Joe Kelly,
Observations from JetBlue Park: Red Sox not overly concerned about Joe Kelly’s biceps 03.16.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As Red Sox manager John Farrell pointed out after his team’s 4-3 win over the Mets Monday, any time a starter is forced to walk-off the mound in the middle of an outing there should be cause for concern.

But in the case of Joe Kelly — who had to exit in the third inning after experiencing tightness in his right biceps — the Red Sox and the pitcher weren’t seemingly overly anxious.

“They kind of saw me shaking my arm more than usual, asked me what was wrong and I just said my biceps is a little tight and a little achy and it progressively got a little worse,” Kelly said, having had particular trouble throwing breaking balls. “They might want me to rest a little bit. Just a little bit of restriction in my lower biceps. See how it feels tomorrow, and play regular catch, hopefully.”

“He was experiencing some biceps soreness. Not uncommon for pitchers to experience some kind of soreness as we’€™re stretching him out and building up their pitch count,” Farrell noted. “I know it’€™s something Joe has dealt with in the past. It was a day his velocity wasn’€™t normal, which again, I think some of our starters are going through a little bit of a dead arm period. I know it affected him most after he tried to throw his breaking ball. After he threw that last pitch where he tried to get a little extra velocity you could see him have a little different action on the mound.

“At that time it was clearly time to get him out of the game. We’€™ll have a chance to re-evaluate him when he comes back tomorrow to see what treatment he might needs going forward or any adjustment to his overall schedule. We’€™ll find that out tomorrow.”

Kelly said he had dealt with this issue before and felt the biceps discomfort while warming up.

While none of the parties involved could say for sure, the chances of Kelly making his next start, Sunday against the Phillies, would seem in doubt considering the Sox’s cautious approach. It is still also unclear if an MRI will be needed, although the pitcher wasn’t anticipating undergoing any imaging.

“Any time a pitcher walks off the mound you’€™ve got to go through some steps of getting on a mound in a bullpen session and test it before you go back out there,” Farrell said. “We’€™ll get more information before he comes in tomorrow.”

Kelly, who was relegated to primarily throwing all fastballs before exiting, allowed three runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings.

“I’m fairly confident and honest with you guys that I think it’s not very much of a big deal at all,” he said. “They might make me rest a little bit. Right now my arm feels fine. It just was a little bit of restriction in the lower part of my biceps.”

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Rusney Castillo: ‘I would say I’m at 100 percent’ 03.16.15 at 1:26 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rusney Castillo is on the verge of re-entering spring training.

The outfielder took batting practice for the first time since suffering a left oblique strain, Monday, and will likely play in a game sometime this week. (Castillo still wasn’t sure of the exact date for his return, saying through translator Adrian Lorenzo, “We’ve talked about some things, but nothing is finalized.”

The good news for Castillo and the Red Sox is that the 27-year-old has already gotten to the point where the ailment is no longer an issue.

“I would say I’m at 100 percent, but we’re going to ease our way into it,” he said.

Castillo has played in just one exhibition game thus far, getting three at-bats against Boston College.

He passed on that he does believe there is still ample time to show the organization his potential value on the Opening Day roster, but also understands the importance of being patient.

“It really hasn’t been that difficult just because I’ve been informed and I always thought health is priority No. 1 right now,” he said. “It’s a long season so there’s still time to recover and make sure I recover right and not rush it.”

Asked if he thought there was enough time for Castillo to be ready for Opening Day, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “That I don’€™€™t know. He projects to be game ready by Wednesday, so he’€™€™s going to take live BP, and he’€™€™ll throw to bases tomorrow. He’€™€™s passed every baseball physical test that’€™€™s we’€™€™ve put him in front of to date. He’€™€™s responded well to the strain of the oblique so that’€™€™s our plan right now.”

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Jonathan Papelbon on time of games: ‘You can’t win an Academy Award for an hour and 10 minute movie’ 03.16.15 at 11:09 am ET
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Jonathan Papelbon has his own solution on how to fix time of games. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Papelbon has his own solution on how to fix time of games. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jonathan Papelbon is well aware of how he is perceived.

Whenever the time of game controversy comes up, he is one of the pitchers who is identified as one of the chief culprits in slowing the games down. And lately, as the Phillies closer has been reminded, there has been a lot of talk on the subject.

“As soon as this happens [former Red Sox bullpen coach] Gary Tuck calls me up and he says, ‘I just got off the phone with Joe Torre and we’re going to implement the Jonathan Papelbon Rule his year,'” said Papelbon of Major League Baseball‘s new rule changes. “He said, ‘We’re going to have clocks, and batters box rules, and this and that.'”

Papelbon has learned to alter his approach, adhering to the league’s quest to hurry things up. But he also offers his own solution to the problem.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” Papelbon explained. “I’ve been able to make adjustments. I haven’t struggled with adjustments. But its’ not going to effect the way I pitch. I just think, and I know I’m a pitcher saying this, if you want to speed the game up, tell the umpire to raise their right hand more. There are other ways to do it other than trying to get in the way of the game. There’s a reason why there’s never been a time clock on this game.”

While Papelbon has tried to hurry things up, he certainly hasn’t been one who has seen the need for shorter games. In 2010 he offered this explanation: “‘€œHave you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘€˜Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended.’€™ That’€™s like a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why would you want it to end?”

When reminded of the quote, the closer nodded his head, adding, “You can’t win an Academy Award for an hour and 10 minute movie.”

To read more from Papelbon on his quest to make the Hall of Fame, click here.

Morning Fort: Koji Uehara explains why he’s messing around with cutter; Rusney Castillo almost ready; John Farrell talks roster 03.16.15 at 10:46 am ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s Matt Harvey Day at JetBlue Park.

The Red Sox‘ game against the Mets Monday is allowed a bit more spice thanks to New York’s ace getting the start against the Sox’ regulars. And just for good measure, highly-regarded hurler Noah Syndergaard was slated to follow Harvey.

(It already hasn’t been a good day for the Mets, with news that one of their other top pitchers, Zack Wheeler, has a torn elbow ligament.)

“If they want to give him up, we would be certainly welcome,” joked Farrell of Harvey.

For the Red Sox, Joe Kelly gets the start, with Steven Wright, Edwin Escobar, Edward Mujica, Alexi Ogando, Dalier Hinojosa and Junichi Tazawa following.

– There was some buzz in camp about how Koji Uehara’s spring training performances haven’t been lights out, with the closer allowing runs in two of his three outings.

Uehara’s most recent hiccup was somewhat explained away by Farrell due to the reliever prioritizing his cutter, a pitch he previously has barely implemented.

Here was Koji explaining his recent spring training experimentation:

Are you working on it more this year? Uehara: “A little bit more because I feel a little bit stronger of a need to learn a new pitch.”

Why now? Uehara: “I feel the hitters are getting a hang of my repertoire, which I feel I need to expand.”

How do you think it’s coming along? Uehara: “I can’t really say if it’s getting better or not. There’s good days and bad days.”

When did you decide to do this? Uehara: “I’ve been working on it consistently going back to my days in Japan. But this is probably the most I’ve worked on it.”

Do you think this is something you’ll start using? “Yes.”

– Rusney Castillo might see game action as soon as Wednesday, taking batting practice for the first time since injuring his left oblique Monday.

“That I don’€™t know,” said Farrell when asked if Castillo would be ready for Opening Day. “He projects to be game ready by Wednesday, so he’€™s going to take live BP, and he’€™ll throw to bases tomorrow. He’€™s passed every baseball physical test that’€™s we’€™ve put him in front of to date. He’€™s responded well to the strain of the oblique so that’€™s our plan right now.”

The Sox manager reiterated that the team hasn’t closed the door on the outfield competition despite Mookie Betts’ emergence and Castillo’s injury.

– Farrell said the organization hasn’t decided if Edwin Escobar will work as a starter or reliever if sent to the minor leagues. The lefty won’t work as a starting pitcher in major league camp, but has intrigued the staff.

– When asked about Robbie Ross and Mitchell Boggs, Farrell offered similar evaluations, suggesting there was work to do.

Ross, the pitcher acquired from Texas for Anthony Ranaudo, does have options, potentially allowing for more time to regain his 2013 form while working in the minors.

“He probably hasn’€™t shown the finish to his cutter, particularly getting the ball in on right-handers,” Farrell said. “He’€™s going to throw in a minor league game here [Monday]. We’€™re trying to get our arms around ‘€¦ He went from a very good reliever in his first year in Texas to a starters role last year. Sometimes the stuff doesn’€™t play up as much in a starters role as it does in a shorter stint coming out of the bullpen. Our goal and our approach with him is to get him back to the bullpen, hoping to regain that performance level and the overall stuff and we’€™re still in the process of that.”

Boggs, who has an opt-out on April 4, has gotten good results, but apparently needs to take another step in order to enter into legitimate competition for a big league spot.

“A similar situation to Robbie Ross where we’re trying to regain previous form. This is a guy who flew the minor leagues as a starter in St. Louis and then was moved to the bullpen, became a very good closer for them. We’re just trying to recapture some of that. He clearly pitches without fear. It’s just how we evaluate the overall stuff.

– Farrell said that the Red Sox wouldn’t necessarily prioritize a pitcher who could pitch multiple innings despite a bullpen full of one-inning relievers. The manager had high praise for Tommy Layne, who would seem to be competition for the bullpen’s final spot with the likes of Brandon Workman.

– Here is the Red Sox’ lineup for Monday: Mookie Betts CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Hanley Ramirez LF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Mike Napoli 1B, Shane Victorino RF, Xander Bogaerts SS, Ryan Hanigan C.

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