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Rusney Castillo does not get his exhibition season off on right foot 02.23.17 at 5:38 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox could certainly live with Rusney Castillo’s first at-bat Thursday against Norheastern, a first-pitch, pop up into foul ground. That happens, even against college kids.

But what transpired for the outfielder in his second go-round truly left a mark when it came to the Red Sox’ perception of Castillo.

With one out in the third inning, and Marco Hernandez on first base, Castillo grounded to Northeastern shortstop Max Burt. The righty hitter clearly was not aware of how many outs there were, because he barely jogged down the first base line, allowing for an easy 6-4-3 double play for the Huskies.

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Castillo, who was getting the start in left field, is an obvious longshot to make the Red Sox to begin with, currently not residing on the 40-man roster. As colleague John Tomase points out, if the Red Sox did decide to promote the 29-year-old, it would cost the team $56,596 per day to keep him around, a reality that would eventually push them over the luxury tax threshold.

The outfielder did impress during his stint in the Puerto Rican Winter League after showing some signs of life with Triple-A Pawtucket during the second half of 2016.

But this — which wasn’t the first issues Castillo has had involving game situation recognition — was clearly a step in the wrong direction for the $72.5 million man.

So much for spring training storyline that Blake Swihart can’t throw 02.23.17 at 5:21 pm ET
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Blake Swihart (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Exactly a week ago, it started. Blake Swihart couldn’t throw back to the pitcher.

Thanks to Comcast Sports Net New England cameraman Bill Messina, we had the video of the Red Sox catcher having a terrible time accurately tossing the ball back to Rick Porcello during a simple bullpen session. The next day was better, but not enough to stop the storyline to really gain steam. (To read about the saga, click here.)

While there was significant progress from Swihart throughout whatever throwing exercises he was participating in, the true story wouldn’t be told until the actual games started.

So, they did. And as it turned out, it wasn’t a problem.

Swihart came in for the fifth inning and tossed the balls back to reliever Marcus Walden without incident. The throw downs to second base? Right on the money. That appeared to be that.

“I mean, you tell me. Yeah, everything felt good,” he said after the Red Sox’ 9-6 win over Northeastern Thursday at JetBlue Park. “I went and cut off that ball and threw it to third. My throws in between innings were good. Throwing back to the pitcher was fine.”

Was he concerned heading into the exhibition game test?

“No. not for me,” Swihart said. “I wasn’t worried about it. Like I said, it’s just part of getting back in the groove.”

Along with playing well defensively at a position he hadn’t manned since last April, Swihart was encouraged by how his surgically-repaired ankle responded to sprinting from first base to home plate on Steve Selsky’s double off the left field wall. The catcher had singled to reach with two outs in the sixth inning.

“Every first game, everybody’s adrenaline should be going. I was excited,” he said. “June 4 was a long time ago. I was ready to get out there.”

Why you should have cared about Red Sox win over bunch of college kids 02.23.17 at 5:03 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox went to 16-0 in their spring training meetings with Northeastern, beating the Huskies 9-6, Thursday at JetBlue Park. Yippee.

We shouldn’t really care what the final score was, or that Red Sox reliever Jamie Callahan surrendered two runs, or hard-throwing Luis Ysla gave up two in just 2/3 innings. The reality was that a healthy chunk of the assumed 25-man roster was on the premises before first pitch, and those who stuck around had no idea what the final score was.

But there were reasons that you should have paid some attention to the goings on, regardless of who was playing for Mike Glavine’s Huskies. Here should be your takeaways:

– Sam Travis was one of a few Red Sox who were making their return to actual game competition after a season-ending injury at some point last year.

Before the game, both Travis and Red Sox manager John Farrell proclaimed the first baseman in relatively the same shape as when he dominated Grapefruit League action with a .469 batting average and 1.167 OPS in 18 games last season. And watching Travis serve as the Sox’s DH Thursday, it sure didn’t appear as though that knee surgery he had last June 1 was going to have any impact, with the righty hitter lining a three-run homer just over the left field wall.

“I feel great,” said the player who wears no batting glove or undershirt. “I’m ready to go.”

– There was also Blake Swihart, who found himself catching for the first time since last April. First there was a position change to the outfield, then came his season-ending ankle injury.

While his line-drive single was encouraging, sprinting home from first on Steve Selsky’s double off the left field wall was perhaps more impressive. And then there was his work behind the plate, which included an improved job of framing strikes, and no issues at all throwing the ball.

“I love that,” he said of his return to catching. “I love being involved in every play. I’ve said that from the beginning. That’s where I want to be.”

“I think any time you’re dealing with an ankle, and again the surgery has been successful and the rehab has obviously been there, too,” Farrell said. “Just to see the overall athleticism get back to the level previous. A number of positive things inside today.”

– The last reclamation project to emerge in fine fashion was Pablo Sandoval. The third baseman fielded all three of his chances cleanly, while stretching a line-drive into right field into a double (even sliding head-first).

“A lot of things to prove, man. A lot of things,” Sandoval said. “I just want to do everything I can out there, prove everything that I know that I can do on the field. I’m just going to be humble and keep playing the game the way I play.

“All three,” Farrell said of the returning trio. “There were a number of positive things inside an exhibition game. Panda, it’s been nearly a year since he’s been in a game, handled three balls cleanly. Good to see the swing he puts an a ball on a double down the right field line. Regardless of who the opponent is, when you miss that much time and you come back, and in his case particular, where he’s put a lot of work, it’s good to see it get off on a positive note. With Sam, he’s picked up seemingly right where he’s left off in swinging the bat. And Blake, I think today for just three innings of work, he received a number of pitches that were borderline that he got strikes. He looked much more under control back there and his receiving, I thought, was very clean.”

– While it’s impossible to read anything into Brian Johnson’s line — that included not allowing a hit while striking out three and walking one over two innings — seemingly approaching the form that put him on the Red Sox radar two spring trainings ago was a positive.

“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand better,” said the lefty, whose last two seasons had been derailed by an elbow injury, and then anxiety issues. “I felt like going to physical therapy three or four times a week last year, when I got here I felt my arm was already tired.”

– Mitch Moreland is evidently really good at kicking off spring training.

The new Red Sox first baseman hit a home run in his first spring training at-bat in 2015, taking Jake Arrieta deep. He went deep again in his first exhibition game of the season this time around, as well, blasting a three-run homer into the Sox’s bullpen in his second at-bat.

“Surprisingly, I felt really comfortable, really kind of loose and relaxed even though it’s spring training,” Moreland said. “It was a first day out there. It felt pretty good. Comfortable. You know had fun.”

– Not all was encouraging for the Red Sox, with Rusney Castillo’s issues with mastering game situations surfacing once again.

With one out in the third inning, and Marco Hernandez at first base, Castillo hit a grounder to shortstop. The outfielder basically jogged down to first, clearly forgetting how many outs there were, with the play resulting in a 6-4-3 double play.

“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”

Here is where you can watch Red Sox take on Northeastern 02.23.17 at 1:04 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — No Red Sox Radio Network? No NESN? No problem.

If you want to watch at least some of the Red Sox spring training opener against Northeastern, you’ll have to go to the Major League Baseball Facebook page, where MLB is using Facebook Live to stream the first two innings.

(Click here to go to the MLB Facebook page.)

Dave Dombrowski: Red Sox would like to have Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts for long time, but aren’t in rush to extend them 02.23.17 at 10:59 am ET
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Dave Dombrowski isn't in a rush to extend Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Dave Dombrowski isn’t in a rush to extend Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are two Red Sox players who are potential superstars and obviously the team would like to have them part of their long-term future.

Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season, while Betts is a free agent after 2020.

Appearing on Kirk & Callahan Thursday morning, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the organization would like them to be with them for a long time, but aren’t in any rush to strike a deal.

“We would like them to be Red Sox for a long time,” Dombrowski said. “But, I have also learned throughout the years any time you have contract negotiations with players they are best kept between you and the player. That is how I have always handled those types of situations.”

Bogaerts is a Scott Boras client and he’s been known not to sign contracts before a player hits free agency. Dombrowski noted he’s been able to strike deals beforehand with Boras clients on a few occasions and sometimes it is up to the player to overrule Boras and make a decision on their own.

“I think first of all, let’s just use those two because they are specific, there’s not a rush per se,” Dombrowski said regarding an extension. “It’s not like they are [free agents] at the end of this year. I’ve run into those scenarios. You can occasionally still throw out that we have interest. I think what’s interesting throughout the years, I’ve dealt with Scott Boras many, many times for 30 years basically, and ultimately it is the player’s life. They need to step up at times and make their decisions and I have had players that Scott will say, ‘We’re really not interested,’ and he will talk to the player and at one point he may come back and the player may say, ‘I want to make this decision.'”

Dombrowski also noted that Bogaerts seems to enjoy being a member of the organization.

“I think Xander likes it here a great deal,” he said. “I think he is in a position where he would like to be a Red Sox. He appreciates the organization and the way he’s been treated. You never can tell what can happen with those things.”

Read More: Dave Dombrowski, mookie betts, xander bogaerts,
Why Brian Johnson starting against Northeastern Thursday actually means something 02.22.17 at 12:16 pm ET
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Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Brian Johnson (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first spring training start is usually forgotten.

Sure, there was Boston College’s Johnny Ayers hitting a first-pitch double against Daisuke Matsuzaka (having heard the pitcher proclaim he would be throwing a fastball for his first pitch as a Red Sox). That will always be the be-all, end-all spring training debut tale.

But most of the outings are along the line of 2016, when Sean O’Sullivan got the nod.

This year, however, there is something special about the honor of kicking off the exhibition season. At least that’s the case for Brian Johnson.

The lefty was informed Tuesday that he will be getting the nod to start against Northeastern Thursday.

“Yeah, just because it’s my first time being around each other feeling good. Knowing whether it goes good or bad, I still feel like myself,” said Johnson when asked if this start might be special for him.

Two years ago, spring training was where Johnson truly got on the Red Sox’ major league radar, leaving camp as a legitimate option if one of the chief members of the starting rotation was sidelined. But then came an elbow injury, which ultimately led to an uncomfortable major league debut on July 21, 2015 in Houston (4 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks in 4 1/3 innings).

And, finally, there was the anxiety issues that derailed his season at Triple-A Pawtucket, making him restart his season for nearly two months.

“This all started for me when that elbow injury happened,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know if I should say something. I knew I was on the cusp of getting called up. I have no feeling in my hand. I’m having to change arm slots in terms of knowing where the ball is going in the sense of being able to feel my hand. If you throw one, sometimes it felt like I was hitting my funny bone. I was thinking, ‘Is it going to be numb? What pitch is it going to do it on? Is it going to be in first inning, or the fourth inning?’ I never got comfortable and I always had that in the back of my head. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

“Without a doubt it’s good to get back on the mound, especially after an up and down year last year. It’s good to get back out there.”

After Johnson pitches two innings, Jamie Callahan will come in for relief against the Huskies. The Red Sox will then send out Henry Owens to pitch the Grapefruit League opener against the Mets Friday at JetBlue Park, followed by Roenis Elias vs. the Twins in another home tilt.

Best spring training question so far involved World Baseball Classic, Xander Bogaerts, Kim Jong-un 02.21.17 at 5:42 pm ET
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MLBPA chief Tony Clark (WEEI.com photo)

MLBPA chief Tony Clark (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While the head of the MLB Players Association, Tony Clark, will be visiting every major league camp this spring training, it is a pretty good bet that he won’t be getting the kind of question sent his way 19 minutes into his session with the Red Sox media.

The query came courtesy veteran WBZ reporter Jonny Miller:

“Tony, any concerns over the World Baseball Classic being played in South Korea with that idiot in North Korea with the button? Any concerns with playing in that area?”

After a quick smile and chuckle, Clark offered a succinct response.

“Well, I think where we’re at right now, we’re going to try to make the best of where we are. To the extent that they may have to be moved, I don’t believe we’re at that point yet based on where we are on the calendar. But should it ever need to be if something does happen that needs to be reflected in a full stop and an adjustment, then we would have to make that adjustment sooner rather than later.

“I think where we’re at right now we’re going to try to make the best of where we are. To the extent that they may have to be moved, I don’t believe we’re at that point yet based on where we are on the calendar. But should it ever need to be if something does happen that needs to be reflected in a full stop in an adjustment we would have to make that decision sooner rather than later.”

The Red Sox will be sending Xander Bogaerts to South Korea to participate with the Netherlands representative in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. The first round involving Pool A (Israel, Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands) kicks off in Seoul on March 6.

Red Sox notebook: Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz expected to be ready for Opening Day; Team headed to see ‘Patriot’s Day’ 02.21.17 at 1:01 pm ET
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Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — They are behind everybody else, but not enough to alter the conversation.

Steven Wright (shoulder) and Drew Pomeranz (elbow) didn’t throw their first spring training bullpen session until Monday, with most of the other pitchers having already thrown to hitters in a batting practice setting. But, according to John Farrell, both starters are still expected to have enough time to be ready for the first time through the rotation come Opening Day.

“Yes, based on where they are right now, with the number of days left in spring training, provided there are no setbacks, we’ll have ample time to get them to the mound to build up their pitch counts with a typical spring training,” the Red Sox manager said.

Farrell noted that the duo — who will remain the same schedule — is slated to throw the next bullpen session Thursday.

– Farrell said the plan is for the Red Sox to go watch the movie “Patriot’s Day” as a team after Wednesday’s workout.

“A team building opportunity. ‘Patriot’s Day’ is the movie,” he said. “Opened up to the players and their families. To me, that’s a part of our recent history, a significant moment, and I think it’s us and the coaching staff and I think really Pedey [Dustin Pedroia] is the only player remaining from that day’s lineup in our organization. Still, it’s a big part of who we are in Boston and I think it will be important for our guys to understand what we’ve gone to.”

– With MLB Players Association chief Tony Clark in town, the topic of rule changes came up with Farrell. One note interest was the manager’s suggestion that a pitch clock is seemingly inevitable.

“The one thing that is, as we’re seeing as it relates to pace of game and so much emphasis on it, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a short period of time, I’m not saying this year, but we’re probably going to be looking at a pitch clock overall,” he said.

Farrell added, “I think we’ve done a good job of not trying to change too many things at once and there’s been incremental changes along the way. Just because we are talking strike zone, pace of play, clocks, I don’t think we’ll see five or six things change at once.”

Red Sox notebook: Monday offered proof Steven Wright actually might be OK; Chris Sale is still good; Brandon Workman returns 02.20.17 at 2:27 pm ET
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Steven Wright (Jasen Winlove/USA Today Sports)

Steven Wright (Jasen Winlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was some eyebrow-raising going on at the beginning of spring training when it was determined Steven Wright was still easing his way back from his shoulder injury.

But Monday actually may have eased some fears that Wright wouldn’t be ready when the regular season rolled around.

Throwing off a mound since the Red Sox were in Cleveland for their two postseason games, Wright executed a split of fastballs and knuckleballs in his 25-pitch bullpen session. The result was along the lines of what the knuckleballer was looking for, with no pain or restrictions.

“Encouraging,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I thought Steven Wright today was unrestricted. He was out over his front side with good extension. He was able to throw both his fastball and knuckleball today. He didn’t speak of any lingering issues with his shoulder. A very productive and positive day for Steven.”

“It felt good,” Wright said. “It felt a lot better than I thought it was. The ball was coming out good. It definitely gives me some injury to build off of and take it into the next one.”

Also throwing his first bullpen was Drew Pomeranz, who is being eased into things after receiving stem cell injections in his left elbow in the offseason.

Farrell noted that both Wright and Pomeranz, who have been throwing out to 120 feet, will remain on the same progression, with facing hitters in batting practice serving as the next step.

After the session, Pomeranz also supplied some further information regarding his offseason injection.

“It was pretty painful to be honest,” he noted. “I heard PRP [platelet rich plasma] is pretty painful too. The way they do it is they kind of scrape the tendon, the flexor, to create some bleeding I guess and then they shoot the stem cells on top so I guess your body knows to heal there. I was fine five minutes into it then about 20 minutes later I couldn’t bend my arm for like five days. I’ve heard some guys say PRP it’s like that for a few weeks, mine wasn’t that bad, probably just like five or six days.”

– Chris Sale threw his first live batting practice as a member of the Red Sox and was (surprise, surprise) good.

“He certainly gives an uncomfortable feel to the hitter in the box,” Farrell said. “And you combine it with stuff that seemingly moves all over the strike zone. We’re getting a first-hand look at why he’s been so successful and an elite pitcher.”

“You know, more importantly, just kind of competing against myself moreso than the batter that I’m facing,” said Sale, whose session amounted to throwing 30 pitches. “When you’re throwing a fastball away, you try to keep it down and try to see the movement and get some good work in. I know that a lot of people say that spring training is this and that, but this is my time to get ready for the season. It’s a long season, so I try to prepare my body and my mind as best I can.”

– It was a momentous day for Brandon Workman, who hadn’t thrown to major league hitters since the end of the 2015 spring training.

Workman, who underwent Tommy John surgery, showed some flashes of his old self when throwing to hitters Monday, but still has some work to do. The righty hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2014.

“I was excited. It was good to be back out there and have batters in the box and just be part of the regular stuff,” Workman said. “I felt like it got there. Early I was just getting the feeling for it. Getting it going. Then I felt like I settled in pretty good and was locating pretty well. It was a good day, for sure.”

“I thought he got better throughout the session,” Farrell said. “He’s still going to need some innings coming off the surgery and the rehab. There were times where the ball showed the previous carry through the strike zone. You’re just kind of getting a gauge early on, and yet there’s still work to be done certainly before he gets back into games with any projected production on his part.”

– One of the more impressive feats this spring has already come from the return of Sam Travis.

The first base prospect, who wowed the Red Sox with a .469 batting average and 1.147 OPS in 18 Grapefruit League games last spring, has shown absolutely no ill-effects from the knee surgery which ended his 2016 last June.

“Hard-nosed player. a grinder type, a blue-collar player,” Farrell said of Travis. “The way he went through drill work the first couple of days, there’s no evidence of the ACL surgery that he had. He feels great. The work that he put in on the rehab is certainly paying off. But he impressed last year in his first camp with his ability to impact the baseball and just maybe the determination and the aggressiveness that he exudes when he’s on the field.”

– Farrell said once again that while nothing is set in stone, Sandy Leon currently has the upper-hand on the starting catching spot.

“I can’t say that it’s not without competition. But if we were to open up tomorrow, it’s likely Leon is behind the plate leading things off based on what that group of guys at the catching position did last year and the way Sandy has evolved in his own right,” said the manager. (He would not bite when asked which pitcher Leon might be catching if the season started tomorrow.)

Red Sox reliever Robby Scott pitches perfect game when comes to Friday night wedding proposal 02.20.17 at 10:37 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Robby Scott’s execution was flawless.

The Red Sox reliever decided it was time to ask his girlfriend, Chelsea Briche, to marry him. That was the easy part. How Scott executed his delivery last Friday night was the real feat.

With Chelsea coming into town Wednesday, Scott hatched a plan to not only document the moment he asked Briche to marry him, but also hide a collection of people around the corner from the event in Naples to celebrate the moment.

“I had a dinner set up on the beach. I told Chelsea I wanted to go down a little early and go for a walk on the beach,” Scott said. “I had met the photographer a couple of days before at the venue, had the spot picked out. So the photographer was hiding in the bushes. Once we got there, and as soon as we got on the beach, I was speed walking. Chelsea was like, ‘Why are you walking so fast?’ I was pretty nervous and the emotions and everything were telling me to get me to that spot pretty quick. But she didn’t have a clue up until that point.”

Perhaps the most difficult part of the equation was hitting the times mapped out by the photographer, with Scott scheduled to be at his spot by exactly 5:40 p.m.

But he managed, with friends, family, and a few teammates jumping out to celebrate the moment.

“Afterwards she was like, ‘No wonder why you were acting so weird,’ because I was stone-faced the whole car ride there. I just wanted to get there and not screw it up,” Scott said. “It worked out well.”

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