|Seven years after his surgery, remembering what Ryan Westmoreland might have been||03.16.17 at 9:27 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ryan Westmoreland’s manager with the Lowell Spinners, Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina, couldn’t fathom it when reminded.
“I can’t believe it’s been seven years,” DiSarcina said Thursday afternoon.
But it has been.
On March 16, 2010, Westmoreland underwent surgery on a cavernous malformation of his brain stem, for all intent and purposes ending the career of a player many believed might be the next great New England superstar.
The anniversary served as an opportunity to remember how good Westmoreland, a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft, was, and how good he might have ended up being.
“That was the question I asked a lot of people,” said Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant, who had tracked Westmoreland through his high school career at Portsmouth (RI) High. “[Former Red Sox general manager] Theo [Epstein] would be the first to ask because Theo just raved nothing but superlatives about him. From what I had heard, 30-30. That kind of guy. An impact, everyday guy for a long time.”
What intrigued many about the 6-foot-2, 212-pound outfielder was how fast he came on after graduating high school. First came the draft, but then Westmoreland really started getting people talking in the months leading up to his signing in August, 2008.
“I’ve never seen anybody come on more than over the course of the summer,” Fagnant remembered. “We saw a lot of him that summer because it wasn’t a slam dunk we were going to sign him. It was the kind of thing where we had to monitor him. I saw him probably about 15 times between the draft and the time we saw him. What stood out was how much better he got between the day we drafted him and when we signed him in August. And obviously when we signed him, he was worth every penny. We took a flier on him in the fifth round, but what we got was a slam dunk first-rounder.”
It was Westmoreland’s first full professional season, while with the short-season Single A Spinners, that he allowed for the biggest of expectations.
In 60 games for DiSarcina’s Lowell team, the lefty batter hit .296 with seven home runs and an .885 OPS while going 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts.
“It’s difficult to project, especially a kid coming out of high school like that, as far as how far he would go because there are so many other factors out of his control. Whether he gets injured, gets traded or peaks too soon. So many things can change his path. But the one thing that was certain was his physical ability,” DiSarcina said. “Having seen him for that short season in Lowell, things that stuck out in my mind was coaching third base and when he would score from second on a base hit you could hear him running by you. He was that fast. Very similar to Mike Trout. He rips ground. You could hear him go by you.
“In the batter’s box, he may have been a high school kid, but he conducted himself as a college kid. Just very professional at-bats, great eye. Things high school kids normally wouldn’t have. Didn’t swing at many breaking balls in the dirt with two strikes. He got in good counts a lot of the time. He worked hard on his defensive side of things as far as his throwing ability with his arm.”
All of it was enough to dream what might have been for the now 26-year-old trainer.
“His physical ability and his body, the work that he did there that year, for me, I was very excited for him,” DiSarcina said. “It wasn’t something where this kid needed four or five years in the minor leagues. It doesn’t matter what level, but it was just because the way he performed and dominated that level, I could see him ending that next year ending in Double A. And once you’re in Double A you’re a phone call away.”
7 years ago today I had brain surgery.
— Ryan Westmoreland (@RWesty25) March 16, 2017
|Chris Sale gets regular season-level upset at himself in spring training game||03.16.17 at 8:39 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — First there was the play on the field, one which saw Chris Sale fail to get over to cover first base on a ground ball during his spring training outing Thursday night at JetBlue Park.
The result was the pitcher whacking himself in the head.
Then came the postgame, after his four-inning outing in which he allowed three runs on seven hits to the Pirates. After a few questions, and generic answers regarding the outing, along came the topic of the mental miscue.
The result of that was a tone not normally found in March 16 spring training analysis.
“That’s stupid,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’ve done that 400,000 times since we’ve been here, covering first base. A ball hit over there, cover first base. That’s just a stupid mistake on my part. I’ve got to be better than that, even here. There’s no excuse for that, at all.”
As for Sale’s takeaway from the 74-pitch outing, it wasn’t great, but good enough.
“I got some work in today,” Sale said. “I got great defensive plays behind me, honestly. I’m just trying to get through it and get some good work in and stay on top of things.”
He added, “I didn’t feel sharp today. I felt great, just not sharp. I wasn’t able to locate when I needed to. The second inning, I got two great defensive plays behind me, and CY [Chris Young] there in the third inning. Those are huge even on days like today where you’re just trying to piece it together. Those are added confidence boosters that helped me get back to where I needed to be.”
|Everything you need to know about where Red Sox roster stands||03.16.17 at 6:53 pm ET|
“Where is our left-handed relief going to shake out as, and how does our bench and the third-base combination thereof play out? There’s been nothing determined,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “The same situations exist — left-handed relief, the bench and third-base situation, who’s going to be in that tandem behind the plate. We’re starting to get a little more information on the rotation, just by virtue of the physical ailment to David Price, to who’s pitching currently.”
That lefty reliever spot would seem to be the one legitimate unknown, with Robby Scott, and maybe even Edgar Olmos, certainly making a strong case for unseating Fernando Abad.
While Abad has made three appearances for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, giving up two hits in 1 2/3 innings, Scott has thrown in six innings, not allowing a run over six innings. Scott does, however, have options, which isn’t the case for Abad.
The Red Sox are clearly intrigued by what Abad can deliver, as is evident by their willingness to blow through the deadline (March 15, 2 p.m.) to cut the lefty and only be on the books for 1/6th of his salary. The next checkpoint will come March 29 at 2 p.m., with the Sox being on the hook for 1/4 of Abad’s $2 million deal if he is released. After that, the team will be forced to pay the reliever the whole ball of wax.
And Abad did come through in Thursday night’s WBC game, coming on with runners on first and third in the fifth inning to induce a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Venezuela’s Ender Inciarte to preserve a 1-0 Dominican Republic lead.
Olmos has become the wild card.
The 26-year-old lefty isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, and is working on a minor-league deal. But the fact he has struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings thus far this spring suggests there might be something there. One of the obstacle Olmos currently faces is a hamstring injury, which forced him from his outing in Dunedin Monday.
“Edgar Olmos is throwing the ball very well,” Farrell said of the southpaw, who has pitched in 11 big league games. “One of the reasons we pursued him is the curveball. We feel like it’s a pitch that can have consistent success at the big league level. He’s starting to build some arm strength. We’re starting to see more power to his fastball to create greater separation between the two pitches. He’ll get on the mound hopefully tomorrow to hopefully throw long toss out to 120 feet today, so we’ll anticipate him getting back on the mound. The reason he came out of the game the other day was short-lived. He’s been a guy who has impressed so far.”
As for the extra infielder, it would be hard to see Josh Rutledge not having the inside edge.
Not only is Rutledge a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to stay on the major league roster or be returned to Colorado, but he hits right-handed. With Brock Holt serving as the left-handed-hitting option off the bench, Marco Hernandez would seem to be in an uphill battle despite a spring training that has seen him hit .355 with a 1.041 OPS.
It certainly would seem the two catchers who will break camp with the Red Sox will be Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, who are both without options. Blake Swihart has certainly made it a more difficult decision, hitting .309 with an .819 OPS. Conversely, Vazquez entered Thursday hitting just .179 while Leon is 2-for-14 (.143)
Still, as Farrell explained, offense won’t be the priority.
“Catching is the hardest thing to get a read on as far as their timing,” the manager said. “We’ve been in a situation where we have rotated three guys in a starting role, so guys have been getting two at-bats every third day. With games having started yesterday on the minor league side, we’ll start getting catchers over there to get three or four at-bats on days they aren’t catching here. The offensive evaluation can be a little unfair. Blake has swung the bat very well, no denying it. So if you start to look at batting average as the comparable, that’s something, personally, I don’t think you can do at that position.
“There’s so much more to the position. There’s so much more to the organization depth needs. So it would be extremely short-sighted to say we are going to declare who is the catching tandem based on batting average.”
And, finally, the starting rotation?
Right now you’re looking at Rick Porcello, followed by Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz.
“Based on the calendar, it puts Steven and Drew in games back here that weekend that we depart and head north,” Farrell said. “That would be a best-case scenario. That means they’ve taken the ball every days and are building up to, at that point, roughly 85 pitches.”
|Eduardo Rodriguez asked to join Team Venezuela in WBC, but politely declines||03.15.17 at 12:06 pm ET|
Prior to his team’s game against the Rays Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that Rodriguez had been asked by Team Venezuela to join its club for the next round at the World Baseball Classic, but the lefty declined the opportunity.
Rodriguez was initially planning on playing in the tournament before hurting his knee while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League.
“They requested and he denied,” Farrell said. “He decided to stay here. Given all he has come off this winter, the treatment he currently goes through. He’s decided to stay here.”
Venezuela kicks off its Pool F play with a matchup against the United States Wednesday night, in which Felix Hernandez starts for his home country. The club has dealt with major run prevention issues throughout the tournament, giving up 11 runs to Mexico, 10 to Italy and 11 in its last game against Puerto Rico.
Rodriguez has put himself in a solid position to occupy the No. 3 spot in the Red Sox’ rotation, assuming David Price starts the year on the disabled list. He has made three Grapefruit League outings, giving up three runs in nine innings while striking out seven and walking two.
“In addition to showing good stuff and throwing strikes, the fact that his slider has become more of defined pitch, and when I say defined I mean the shape of it, the action to it, that’s become more of true weapon,” Farrell said. “Last year his slider would be more of a cutter and to a hitter there wasn’t a lot of separation between the pitches. There’s more of that this year. There’s more of put-away pitch for him at times, so that adjustment that he’s gone through has been a net-plus right now.”
|To nobody’s surprise, John Farrell has named Rick Porcello his Opening Day starter||03.15.17 at 11:40 am ET|
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — You win a Cy Young Award, the honors keep coming.
Before facing the Rays on Wednesday, Red Sox manager John Farrell confirmed that Rick Porcello will start on Opening Day against the Pirates at Fenway Park. Farrell said Chris Sale will start the second game, and that the rest of the rotation would be determined by camp, with Eduardo Rodriguez potentially in line for the third spot.
It will be the first Opening Day start for Porcello, whom Farrell informed of his decision upon arriving at spring training. It didn’t require extensive debate.
“No. There really wasn’t,” Farrell said. “We had three candidates that were certainly worthy and capable, but I think there’s a lot to be said for the year Rick had, the leader he’s become on our team, and the dependable pitcher that he is. All of those factors, that was something in some brief discussions with some other guys in the offseason, but as I mentioned to both David Price and others, we need to get deeper into camp. This conversation will happen at the appropriate time. We felt like if everything played out with no issues, Rick would be the guy.”
Porcello went 22-4 last year with a 3.15 ERA to surpass former teammate Justin Verlander in the Cy Young Award voting. Both Price and Sale have maintained since the start of camp that Porcello should get the ball on Opening Day.
“You pitch really well, you earn the Cy Young Award or are voted the top pitcher in the league, i think that carries a lot of weight in the minds of other pitchers,” Farrell said.
|Manny Delcarmen looking for one last try with Red Sox||03.14.17 at 12:19 pm ET|
Manny Delcarmen, who last pitched in the major leagues in 2010, worked out for the Sox Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park in an attempt to latch out with his former organization as a minor-leaguer.
The 35-year-old Delcarmen spent 2016 pitching in the Mexican League after spending the two previous seasons with the Nationals’ Triple-A club.
The righty, who was taken in the second round of the 2000 draft by the Red Sox, left Boston after getting traded to Washington for Chris Balcom-Miller with a month to go in the 2010 campaign. Delcarmen’s best season came in 2009, when he appeared in 73 games for the Red Sox, totaling a 3.27 ERA.
Delcarmen spent the offseason working with former Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold, who also oversaw the workouts of Dodgers’ starter Rich Hill and Craig Breslow, who is in Twins camp on a minor-league deal. He still lives in Massachusetts, just 30 minutes from the home of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, McCoy Stadium.
During his showcase for the Red Sox, Delcarmen was throwing his fastball at 91-92 mph. After catching up with a few of his former coaches and teammates, the West Roxbury native drove to West Palm Beach to workout for the Nationals.
|It looks like David Price will begin the season on disabled list||03.14.17 at 10:31 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell offered another hint that David Price’s return to action won’t be a hurried process.
Meeting with the media Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park, Farrell regarding Price, “I think, at this point, it’d be hard to see him ready to go at the start of the season. We really won’t have any kind of idea until he gets on the mound the first time, and right now I don’t know when that’s going to be.”
Now two weeks out from his last time on a mound, Price’s return from elbow tightness has included throwing into a net over the past few days. (For Price’s take on the situation, click here.)
If Price isn’t ready to go for the beginning of the season, the importance of Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz remaining on their schedules would seem to be of some importance. Wright pitched in his first Grapefruit League game Monday, with Pomeranz making his spring training debut Tuesday. Farrell noted both pitchers would likely be limited to a pitch count in their first regular season starts.
The Red Sox starting depth after Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Price, Wright and Pomeranz right now would appear to be somewhat thin. Henry Owens and Brian Johnson both got sent out of camp Tuesday morning, both needing to uncover more effectiveness, while Roenis Elias is out with an injury to his intercostal muscles.
Hector Velazquez, who does not have an opt-out but is in camp on a minor-league deal, figures to be one of the primary starting depth options at the moment.
Here were some of Farrell’s comments on some of the Red Sox’ depth starters:
Henry Owens: “He had a bullpen here yesterday with Carl [Willis] and Ralph Treuel and others, Brian Bannister, just to try to minimize some of the movements early in the windup. If you look at what transpired in the stretch, every inning he pitched, he walked the leadoff hitter. That’s obviously not a recipe for success. We’re just trying to minimize the movement and create some consistent direction and release point when he’s out of the stretch. There’s an abbreviated delivery now. Yesterday was the first use of it. That’s going to take some adjustment. To Henry’s credit, he didn’t mince words in our meeting. He knows he’s capable of more. He knows he needs to pitch better. When a player articulates it clearly, it may be the first step toward making real change and adjustment. He’s got stuff to pitch in the big leagues. It’s got to be more consistent. … Henry is important to us for the very reason just outlined. He was made well aware of that — his role here, his place here in our pitching depth is key. And yet we’ve got to do some things to get him more consistent, to be more dependable at this point in the short run. The way Kyle Kendrick has thrown the ball, that’s been very encouraging.”
Hector Velazquez: “You can slot him in. There’s a dependability of strike-throwing, albeit yesterday he walks a couple of guys. We recognize that. But it’s an efficient delivery. He’s been durable over the course of a pro career in Mexico. There’s stuff here to execute a game plan. He’s on the depth chart. Depth is going to be a matter of who’s rested and when that need does arise, if it’s on short notice.”
Brian Johnson: “Uptick over the last time he was pitching for us and unfortunately at the time he didn’t reveal that he was pitching in some discomfort. He’s been through a lot. Saw someone that was out there, while on the mound, with more of a concentrated effort to compete. Where maybe, eight, nine, 10 months ago, this is someone who’s just trying to figure some things out. He’s made some progress in terms of his overall game. And yet, as we talked about with Brandon [Workman], Brian’s in the same boat where he’s got to get out and get some work to build some arm strength and hopefully the stuff upticks.”
|Why John Farrell still isn’t going to hesitate pinch-running a pitcher again||03.13.17 at 11:08 pm ET|
After what happened last season with the knuckleballer, would Farrell hesitate pinch-running a pitcher this season?
“No, not at all,” the Red Sox manager told WEEI.com when asked if he would change his approach toward using a pitcher on the basepaths. “It was an unfortunate situation that cost him pretty much the remainder of the year. In a National League situation, we’ll look to do the same again.”
The “unfortunate situation” Farrell referenced was, of course, occurred when Wright’s season, for all intent and purposes, was brought to a screeching halt after jamming his shoulder diving back to second base on a fake pickoff move by Dodgers pitcher Joe Blanton.
Wright was pinch-running for David Ortiz, who the Red Sox were prioritizing getting off his feet during the three-game set in Los Angeles. The hurler had also made his start two days earlier.
“In National League rules? Yes,” said Farrell when asked about taking the same approach. “It was an unfortunate incident. But I felt confident in Steven’s ability to do what we asked and that was because of the time we spend in spring training on baserunning.”
So, why isn’t Farrell flinching when digging in on his approach? Talking to the Red Sox manager prior to Monday’s game, it is clear: they practice it, they preach it, with every intention of doing it. Before Wright, it was Drake Britton in 2013, and before him it was Clay Buchholz in 2009.
Farrell pointed out that every spring training the pitchers spend numerous days working out as baserunners, with rules and regulations being distributed at every turn.
“The most succinct way to describe it is to not draw attention to yourself,” he explained. “In other words, don’t get off with a big lead. There’s a reason why you’re out there and that is to give the person off their feet because either they are hampered or restricted in some way. Unfortunately in this case, [Wright] had a big lead.
“Don’t draw attention to yourself. It’s a conservative lead and a conservative secondary lead, and even with that approach you’re better than who might have been on the base paths, otherwise you wouldn’t be out there.”
Since 2010, American League pitchers have pinch-run 38 times, with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman having been called on for duty six times. In the last two seasons, only Wright and Toronto’s Drew Hutchison have gotten the opportunity.
Ironically, the American League manager who has implemented the strategy the most over the past few seasons, Toronto’s John Gibbons, insinuated he is done with the practice.
For Gibbons, his wake-up call came when Stroman slid head-first into home plate in a 2014 game against the Red Sox.
“I thought about it after the game and thought, ‘This might not be too smart.’ I wouldn’t do it again. Maybe your long man in the bullpen. There’s too much risk,” Gibbons said. “He didn’t get hurt or banged up at all, but I just thought this probably wasn’t that smart. If something happened it could cost his career and cost us. It’s tough because you’re in the moment, you want to win and there was nobody on the bench.”
But Gibbons did try it out one more time after Stroman, except this time it was with Hutchison in the same environment Farrell deems the strategy acceptable, against a National League team.
“The structure we put together is to educate as best possible, realizing an American League pitcher on the base paths is going to be a foreign scenario,” Farrell said. “We know that going in. But what we try and do is make sure they don’t draw attention to themselves.”
|Steven Wright comes out of first spring training appearance in good shape||03.13.17 at 2:08 pm ET|
DUNEDIN, Fla. — It took a while for Steven Wright to dive into Grapefruit League action, but it seemed to be worth the wait for the knuckleballer and the Red Sox.
Making his spring training debut Monday against the Blue Jays, Wright pitched two innings, throwing 21 pitches, 16 of which were strikes. He faced seven batters, allowing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to reach via an error by shortstop Brock Holt.
Wright, who was facing off with J.A. Happ, integrated four fastballs, leaving his outing with the game scoreless.
“I felt pretty good,” Wright said. “I felt like I can be better, just because of the fact that it was my first game, so there’s a little of that anxiety and adrenaline type of feel, but it’s just another step in the rehab process. I did the throwing program. I did the live BP. The last step is games. It’s going to start building up the pitch count and innings. I felt pretty good for it being my first time out.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said before the game that both Wright and Drew Pomeranz, who is slated to make his spring training debut Tuesday, will stay behind in Fort Myers when the team heads to Boston. The duo will most likely be working on an 85-90-pitch limit in their first regular season outing.
|Carson Smith offers subtle reminder that he probably shouldn’t be forgotten||03.13.17 at 12:02 pm ET|
Monday back in Fort Myers, Carson Smith put himself back into the conversation
The reliever, who first had elbow discomfort during a spring training game last March 21, threw off a mound for hte first time. And while a realistic return date still wouldn’t seem to be before well into May, Smith’s 18-pitch session was a significant step in the right direction.
“Coming back from Tommy John myself, and seeing other pitchers, that’s a marker you’re looking for, getting on the mound that first time,” Farrell said. “He’s done very good as far as progressing through consecutive days of long-toss and flat ground. That’s all been handled fine. So today, another positive step for him. … I wouldn’t categorize today as a full bullpen, but it’s a significant day.”
Smith, in case you forgot, was dealt for from Seattle prior to last season along with Roenis Elias in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. Miley is currently with the Orioles, having been traded to Baltimore last July 31, while Aro is still with the Mariners but not on the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment.
The guy who was acquired to help fill that eighth-inning spot this time around, while Smith heals, Tyler Thornburg,threw out to 180 feet Monday and is slated to participate in a bullpen session Wednesday. Thornburg has been scaled back while acclimating himself to a more intense shoulder strengthening program.
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