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Red Sox notebook: David Price timetable tweaked; Roenis Elias sidelined; Tyler Thornburg’s shoulder needs strengthening 03.10.17 at 5:15 pm ET
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David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was exactly one week ago that the Red Sox got the news that David Price wouldn’t need surgery. Now we have a clearer picture of what the next week will hold for the injured pitcher.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, Price is on the verge of finally throwing a baseball again.

“He continues to make improvements,” Farrell said. “The phase that he’s in now is that we’ll start to get into some plyometric exercises which basically puts him into a throwing position but at shortened distances, a weighted ball against a trampoline, that type of thing, starting to get his arm back in motion, in addition to the rehab. Whether he’s got a ball in his hand, that will happen in the coming days, but he’s starting to get the movement of a throwing motion back incorporated. He’s making positive strides.”

The manager added, “He’s regaining full range of motion. That’s been had all week. There’s always been, throughout this week, the monitoring of whatever swelling may have exited. How that is receded or subsided. Strength testing. Those are constant markers to get to the point of today and that is to take the arm and putting it through the arm-throwing motion. This is all part of, still, a strengthening phase. So whether the ball is in his hand – the baseball is in his hand – Sunday, Monday or Tuesday – I don’t know that has a major impact on this eventual return. Felt like this is the next progressive step.”

While Price hasn’t thrown off a mound since the last day of February, Farrell noted that his progression doesn’t put him all the way back to Square One when it comes getting ready for the season.

“No, I wouldn’t go all the way back there,” Farrell said. “But then again, how he advances through the throwing program is going to be more indicative of that. It was eight days ago, nine days ago, that he was throwing 94 mph. That’s not day one of spring training.”

– The news wasn’t as good for Roenis Elias, who was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday at the last minute.

“Roenis went for an MRI as well as X-rays. The MRI confirms that he’s got a strain to the intercostal,” Farrell said. “We know these can be time-consuming. We expect him to miss a couple of weeks at a minimum. How far after that, he’ll be back when he’s capable. I don’t want to get into any return projection dates, but the testing confirms the inflammation that’s in there on the right side.”

– Tyler Thornburg not only has taken time off to work on his mechanics, but, as it turns out, is using the time to strengthen his pitching shoulder. The reliever has allowed nine runs in 1 1/3 innings over his two spring training outing.

“He is throwing long-toss out to 120 feet [Friday],” Farrell said. “He’s also been going through a strength and conditioning phase, arm-wise. What we encounter with guys coming from other organizations, whether it’s Rick [Porcello], David, all those guys that come in, they go through our shoulder maintenance program, there’s a period of adaptation they have to go through, and Tyler is going through that right now. We’re also going to get him on the mound and get some fundamental work with his delivery and just timing, and that’s soon to come in the coming days. Right now it’s long toss out to 120 feet.”

– Farrell had more good things to say about Pablo Sandoval, who is hitting .333 with a .762 OPS.

“A guy that’s having fun playing, a guy that feels good about himself,” said the manager when asked what he thought about the third baseman. “I think there’s some renewed confidence in his own abilities. He shows it in the aggressive nature he swings the bat. The range has improved with the body composition that he currently has. I see a guy back to the levels he was prior to signing with the Red Sox.”

Putting Mookie Betts in cleanup spot is bit unorthodox, but you shouldn’t freak out about it 03.09.17 at 1:25 pm ET
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Mookie Betts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Mookie Betts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

So, John Farrell is tinkering with the idea that Andrew Benintendi might hit third, sliding Mookie betts down to the cleanup spot.

This is what the Red Sox manager had to say on the matter when meeting with the media at JetBlue Park Thursday morning:

“There might be some lineups here in camp when Bogey [Xander Bogaerts] returns that would take a look at that. If you were to take the approach of Andrew in the two-hole, where does that put Bogey? We’re also talking about a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner who has had very good production offensively. If there’s a way to combine breaking up the right-handers and not having a string of three or more right-handers in a row, is that one potential option with Benny in the three-hole? That puts Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], Bogey 1-2 with Benny and then Mookie four and Hanley [Ramireiz] five. You can probably make the argument those are our best five hitters in the top half of the lineup with some balance as best possible. So I wouldn’t rule it out and like I said, we’ll take a look at it when Bogey returns here late in camp.”

Some of the initial reaction when Ken Rosenthal first surfaced this notion late Wednesday focused on the concern over Betts, the American League MVP runner-up, potentially not getting to the plate in the first inning.

Fair.

But understand that cleanup hitters more times than not actually do hit in the first, which means they are coming to the plate with runners on base. Nelson Cruz, who hit fourth more than any other batter in 2016 (155 times), hit in the first inning 98 times. And Mike Napoli, who was second with 140 appearances at cleanup, hit in the first on 97 occasions.

The guy who hit No. 4 for the Red Sox most often 2016 (96 games), and also just happened to have baseball’s best OPS, David Ortiz, was put in that position without nary a complaint even with a first-inning stat line that saw him hit .398 with a 1.241 OPS in the frame.

It should also be noted that in the major leagues last season, the No. 4 hitters had almost the same number of plate appearances as those hitting third (21,530-21,039).

No big deal, right? Probably. Especially when you have three guys in front of Betts who seem to have a pretty good chance at being at an elite offensive level for their respective positions.

Still, considering the kind of player you’re talking about with Betts, the move could be considered somewhat off the beaten track.

There hasn’t been an American League MVP winner since Alex Rodriguez in 2008 who didn’t hit in the first three spots in their respective batting orders more than six times since in the season after claiming the award. Josh Donaldson (2), Mike Trout (0), Miguel Cabrera (6 and 0), Josh Hamilton (0), Joe Mauer (1) and Pedroia (0) all were MVP winners who their team was going to make absolute sure got up in the first.

But Rodriguez offered an example of how it can work a year after winning the AL MVP, hitting fourth in 126 of his 138 games, and still getting up to the plate 97 times in the first inning. When you have good hitters in front of you — in this case Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano — having your best guy hitting fourth can actually work.

So, lower your heart rate, and understand on the ninth day of March, it’s worth the conversation.

David Price gets ‘best-case scenario’ after second opinion; No surgery, will be shut down 7-10 days 03.03.17 at 4:44 pm ET
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David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell called the news the “best-case scenario” for David Price. All things involved, it was hard to argue.

After the Red Sox’ 9-1 win over the Braves Friday at the Wide World of Sports Complex, Farrell passed along the news that Price would not need surgery, or even a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection, on his ailing pitching elbow.

Following the second opinion given by noted elbow experts Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Red Sox will go forth with the plan to shut down Price for 7-10 days, receiving treatment and medication. After the rest, the team reevaluate the pitcher’s elbow before proceeding.

“Even talking with David on his way up there, he felt with each passing hour he was becoming more free,” said Farrell. “As we talked about him experiencing this type of forearm issue in spring training, it may be a little more intense this year, but it’s still the kind of spring training arm that he goes through. A very positive, full exam considering some of the concern. … We definitely feel this is the best-case scenario in light of him still having to miss some time. And there’s no timetable for his return. But we have a definitive plan for him going forward, and an encouraging one.”

Rick Porcello takes mound in game for first time as American League Cy Young Award winner 03.03.17 at 3:54 pm ET
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Rick Porcello (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

Rick Porcello (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — For the first time in his life, Rick Porcello took the mound as the American League Cy Young Award winner, Friday. (At least the initial foray into pitching with the title in front of people who actually paid money to attend.)

Sure, the outing will never go down in the history books. Grapefruit League starts never do. But, nonetheless, Porcello’s three innings against the Braves did mark the beginning of his journey toward trying to become the first back-to-back winner of the A.L. Cy Young since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000.

He didn’t disappoint. The right-hander allowed just two hits over his three innings, while striking out four.

“Felt pretty good,” Porcello said. “Arm is still attached. That’s always a bonus, first time out.”

The Red Sox had reeled in Porcello a bit this spring due to the World Baseball Classic-induced extended exhibition schedule. Prior to the outing against the Braves, the righty’s only action vs. hitters came in a two-inning simulated game at JetBlue Park.

“The more opportunities you get to get off the mound, to take things slow and work on the mechanical things you need to work on the better off you’re going to be,” he said. “Try to use that opportunity wisely and there were still some things that happened out there, delivery-wise, that were a little inconsistent. Just trying to get my bearings and my timing down. The last inning was a lot better. I think that time helped and I’ll continue using these opportunities to sharpen my delivery.”

While it was somewhat notable that Porcello made his spring training debut, the news of the day remained waiting on news from Indianapolis regarding David Price’s elbow. Even Friday’s Red Sox starting pitcher understood that.

“My heart goes out to him,” Porcello said of Price. “Not only is he a teammate and a huge part of our team but he’s a really good friend of mine. It’s a tough time for him right now and we’ll see what happens. Like anything else, like any other outside distraction, you have to compartmentalize. You still have a job to do. But he’s definitely in all our thoughts. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious and he’ll be back soon.”

Wondering what it’s like to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews? Tyler Thornburg gives us a primer 03.03.17 at 2:09 pm ET
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Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Tyler Thornburg has a pretty good idea what David Price is going through.

When it comes to getting second opinions on elbows from Dr. James Andrews — which is what Price is experiencing in Indianapolis Friday — Thornburg has been there, done that. It’s an expertise that can be attributed to the reliever’s 2014 check-up after experiencing a season-ending elbow issue.

“I just wanted to get the opinion from the guy who knows the situation the best of anybody in the world,” Thornburg said.

“It was cool to go down there [to Andrews’ office in Pensacola, Fla.]. The second opinion is already a weird thing to talk about because you’re not saying you don’t trust the team doctor, but you want to get another opinion. It’s always a tough situation.”

As it turned out, the two-hour visit — which involved another MRI and a hands-on examination — was well worth it for Thornburg.

Dr. Andrews ultimately determined that Brewers’ medical staff had under-played the pitcher’s diagnosis. And while there would still be no surgery, Thornburg did receive a PRP injection with a much more cautious timeline.

“[Milwaukee] said that the tear in there was a previous wound that I had my freshman year of high school in 2004,” he remembered. “So when they sent me to Andrews, he said it was a high grade tear, leaking fluid and I should take 4-6 weeks and if it didn’t heal than to have surgery.”

And, as is often the case with those getting second opinions from Dr. Andrews, the biggest payoff might have been ultimate piece of mind.

“Yeah, just because you’re getting it from the guy who is the best at what he does,” Thornburg said when asked if there was a sense of relief after visiting the world-renowned orthopedist. “People go to him for a reason.”

Red Sox notebook: Wait on David Price continues; Pablo Sandoval looks like ‘different player’ 03.03.17 at 12:06 pm ET
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David Price. (NIck Churiaro/USA Today Sports)

David Price. (NIck Churiaro/USA Today Sports)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — It’s a good thing John Farrell is finding himself at the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth.” He might need every bit of good news he can find by the end of the day.

Prior to playing the Braves at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex, the Red Sox manager reiterated that there was no news yet to be had when it came to David Price’s second opinion on the pitcher’s injured left elbow. Both Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache were slated to visit with Price in Indianapolis Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I don’t know that you’re ever saying it’s easier to deal with an injury, especially when it’s a core player. If there’s time to be missed, it’s felt. Hopefully the way he’s progressed the last couple days is encouraging news. Again, it’s hard to predict. Any time you’re going to miss time from a core player, that’s going to have an impact on your team.”

Farrell has first-hand experience when it comes to players who Dr. Andrews steer in a different direction than the original diagnosis, with his son, Luke, avoiding Tommy John surgery thanks to a visit to the orthopedist.

The manager did note that there were no warning signs in 2016 that any of this might be possible with Price.

“You would think after 230 innings if that was an issue there would be some ill-effects of that at some point during the year, which he never experienced,” Farrell said. “Most major league starters are never going to feel pristine every time they walk to the mound. You look at the number of innings he’s pitched over the course of his career, even the last three years, it’s the most in baseball. He’s been durable. This was unexpected.”

– The Red Sox aren’t anointing Pablo Sandoval their everyday third baseman yet, but, according to Farrell, the player has left a pretty powerful impression to this point.

“He’s shown more in the first week of games than he did all of last spring,” the manager said. “From plays he’s made defensively, the range he’s showing, the way he’s getting down the line. He’s not a base-stealer, we know that. He’s much more athletic. His at-bats have been much more consistent. This is like we have a much different player this year compared to last.”

Sandoval is 5-for-12 (.417) with an 1.000 OPS in his four Grapefruit League games so far, going 1-for-3 vs. lefties with a deep fly out to left field.

“The fact that he was searching for that right-handed swing before, now he feels like a more confident hitter overall and certainly from the right side,” Farrell said. “I think a lot has to do with just his body. It’s allowed the swing to be repeated. It’s more aggressive and the bat path is much more consistent.”

– While Hanley Ramirez said Thursday his right shoulder issue was more of an issue than last year, when he also eased into a throwing program, Farrell remains optimistic the ailment won’t curtail the plan to pay Ramirez at first base against left-handed starters come Opening Day.

“I would love to give a timeline, but I can’t,” Farrell said. “Based on all the testing in the training room, we feel like our medical staff is he will get over this. If there’s not marked improvement in the short run, I”m sure further tests will take place. But there’s nothing to say today that he’s not going to be ready at first base defensively for the plan outlined.”

– Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz both threw live batting practice for the first time, Friday, back at JetBlue Park.

Pomeranz threw 27 pitches to catcher Blake Swihart, facing batters Dan Butler, Chris Young, and Josh Ockimey. Wright threw 31 pitches to catcher Christian Vazquez, facing batters Yoan Aybar, Michael Chavis, Kyri Washington, and Josh Ockimey.

– This was Andrew Benintendi’s first trip to Disney World.

Eduardo Rodriguez sure looked like he might be ready to pick up slack in Red Sox rotation 03.02.17 at 5:05 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was just a March 2 spring training game. But the image of Eduardo Rodriguez at JetBlue Park offered a better-than-average impression.

It wasn’t the worse thing in the world for the Red Sox, especially considering the news involving David Price earlier in the day. (To read more about Price, click here.)

Making his first Grapefruit League appearance of the season, having been eased back into things due to his December knee injury, Rodriguez didn’t allow a baserunner against the Rays. The lefty struck out two over two innings before giving way to Craig Kimbrel.

“Quality work by both,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after his team’s 19-2 win over Tampa Bay. “It was very good to see Eddie go out and establish his fastball in the first inning. In his first outing in spring training, he was in command, he was powerful in the first. I liked the way he used some secondary pitches in his second inning. He was able to get a quality two innings of work. Craig as well. He came in and threw both pitches for strikes. The work that he’s been doing leading up to his first appearance and just establishing that consistent delivery, that was on display in the one inning of work for him.

“Both guys were very encouraging, particularly in light of some of the early-morning news today.”

Rodriguez, who seemed on the edge of potentially not making the rotation before the news involving Price’s elbow, showed the kind of stuff Farrell has continuously raved about leading up to his first spring training outing in almost two years.

“I just want to show I can be in the big leagues and when I show that I’m for ready my opportunity to be on the staff, in the starting rotation,” Rodriguez said. He then added about Price, “I don’t know nothing about that or how he is right now. I just want him to be fine. I don’t want somebody to hurt. Just want him to get back and I want to fight for my spot like I’m supposed to.”

As for the Red Sox’ offense, leading the way was Jackie Bradley Jr., who hit two home runs. Also going deep were Hanley Ramirez, Bryce Brentz and Steve Selsky.

David Price officially headed to Indianapolis for second opinion 03.02.17 at 4:37 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — After a day of speculation, the Red Sox offered a bit of clarity regarding the timeline for David Price’s diagnosis.

According to Red Sox manager John Farrell, Price will travel to Indianapolis to meet with noted elbow specialists Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache to undergo a second opinion on the pitcher’s ailing left forearm/elbow. Both orthopedists are in Indy due to the NFL Scouting Combine. (To read more about Price’s situation, click here.)

Farrell noted Price was much more optimistic about his situation Thursday, a day after undergoing the initial MRI.

“He’s in much better spirits today, just based on the way he’s feeling, the way he’s doing everyday activities,” Farrell said. “When he came in yesterday morning, there was a little bit more concern on his part just with the soreness that had set in overnight. As yesterday played out, the treatment he received, he felt better by the time he left the ballpark yesterday. Today he came in and was able to go through a full range of treatment again. As the day has gone on, there’s been increased mobility, there’s grip strength that has increased. Positive signs in the 24 to 48 hours following the outing. We’ll wait and see what tomorrow’s exam brings.”

With news of David Price injury, Dave Dombrowski has no regrets about trading Clay Buchholz 03.02.17 at 1:28 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Dave Dombrowski. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — One of the few storylines throughout spring training was what the Red Sox were going to do with six starters. Thursday that talked died down.

With news that David Price was headed for a second opinion on the soreness in his forearm/elbow after taking an MRI, expectations for the rotation have now been re-calibrated. If Price isn’t available, it’s pretty simple: You have Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz.

After that group, however, it gets a little think considering the depth starters’ track records.

There’s Hector Velazquez (who will now start Saturday), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias and Kyle Kendrick.

So it was no surprise that when Dave Dombrowski addressed the media Thursday morning, he was asked about possible regrets concerning his trade of Clay Buchholz.

“Our guys right now, the five starters in addition to David remain healthy. I think there’s five as good starters as you’ll find anywhere as a combination,” Dombrowski said. “We’re still looking for some of our other guys here in camp to establish themselves, we’re just getting started with camp, guys like Johnson, Owens, Elias, Velazquez, Kendrick, so that gives us a little bit more depth.

“The Buchholz situation, no I don’t. That’s just the timing. You’re not going to just hold onto somebody in case things take place later on.”

Buchholz was traded to the Phillies in exchange for minor leaguer Josh Tobias (who you can learn more about by click on this podcast). The priority for the deal was to get the Red Sox under the luxury tax threshold, with Philadelphia picking up all $13.5 million of his contract.

“I’m not going to speculate at this point. I’m just going to wait and see what takes place,” Dombrowski said.

(For more on Price’s situation, click here.)

David Price most likely headed to Dr. James Andrews for second opinion on elbow, and that’s not good news for Red Sox 03.02.17 at 10:09 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — We were waiting for some significant news from Red Sox camp, and now we have it.

Speaking to the media Thursday morning at JetBlue Park, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that David Price has been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday due to soreness in his pitching elbow/forearm.

Price underwent an MRI and will now seek a second opinion, with the Red Sox attempting to schedule an appointment with renowned elbow specialists Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who are both currently at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

The lefty threw two innings of a simulated game Tuesday and felt increased soreness the next day.

“He’s gone through some soreness in the forearm elbow area in previous spring trainings but this one has a little more intensity to it,” Farrell said. “We have a concern for every player, particularly when they can’t make their next scheduled appearance. So he feels improved today over yesterday so that’s an encouraging sign, but still we’ve got to take every step along the way to get our arms around this in its entirety.”

Any visit to Andrews is a clear red flag, however.

“We’re taking every precaution,” Farrell said. “Yes, we are concerned, as we would be with any player. There’s a couple things. We’ve got a lot of history here with David and what his progression through spring training has been. He’s battled this seemingly in every spring training. We will acknowledge this one has a little more intensity to it, so that’s why we’re taking every step and scratching him for Sunday.

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