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Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford on John Lackey, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Daniel Nava 03.22.14 at 6:00 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford assess the next-to-last spring outing of Red Sox starter John Lackey, who gave up 10 hits and five runs, including two home runs, over 4 2/3 innings Saturday in a 6-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Petraglia and Bradford discuss the latest on contract negotiations for David Ortiz and Jon Lester and the base running lessons involving Daniel Nava.

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John Lackey takes a beating, hits a wall and lives to tell, Red Sox running game runs afoul 03.22.14 at 2:59 pm ET
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John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

John Lackey took a beating on Saturday at Disney. (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — John Lackey took quite the beating Saturday at Disney.

The veteran right-hander allowed 10 hits, including a pair of high-fly homers, and five runs over 4 2/3 innings as the Red Sox fell to the the Braves at Champion Stadium, 6-3, in his third start of the spring. He’s given up 20 hits and 13 earned runs over 12 1/3 innings this March. Lackey did not walk a batter and struck out six. His spring ERA rose to 9.49. Lackey, the projected No. 2 starter, will make one more spring appearance on Thursday before taking the mound for real on April 2 in Baltimore.

Lackey was not concerned about the number of hits he’s given up in three starts.

“It’s spring training, man. I’m not real concerned about a whole lot right now,” Lackey said. “I’m just trying to build up some arm strength and get ready for the real deal.

“I feel pretty good. I’m definitely not quite ready. I’ll still be building arm strength for a few more weeks, to be honest with you. I’ll be good enough to compete and should be just fine.”

The third inning was the most eventful of the day for the Red Sox right-hander. He struck out pitcher Alex Wood. Then speedy Jordan Schafer attempted to bunt his way on with a drag attempt to the first base side. Schafer popped it up a bit and it landed in the triangle between first base, second base and the pitcher’s mound. Lackey fielded the ball, lost his footing but not before scooping it with his glove hand to Daniel Nava at first for the out on a terrific play.

Lackey was slow to get up after falling on his right knee somewhat awkwardly, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski called out manager John Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson. After about 30 seconds on the mound, Lackey went back to work and gave up a high, wind-blown home run just over the wall in left to Andrelton Simmons, the first homer he’s allowed in three spring starts.

The next batter, Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, then ripped a liner back to the box that hit off Lackey’s backside. Lackey recovered quickly but could not retire Freeman, whom Lackey drilled on the back trying to throw him out as Freeman crossed the bag at first.

“Makes a heck of a play, came out of it without turning an ankle,” manager John Farrell said. “It kind of looked like an awkward play. But then the line drive drive fortunately catches him in the flesh part of the leg. We were able to avoid anything more severe.”

“It got me in the thigh, the big part so I’m fine,” Lackey said of the Freeman liner.

As for the bunt?

“A.J. was just being funny, giving me a rest,” Lackey said. “I was fine, nothing happened on that.

Dustin Pedroia was laughing with Lackey coming off the field and congratulated Lackey on his Pedroia-like scoop play. “I just asked if he liked that. He was pretty fired up,” Lackey said.

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Jon Lester says his contract talks are ‘headed in the right direction’ 03.21.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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Jon Lester is hopeful a new contract could be reached by the start of the season. (AP)

Jon Lester is hopeful a new contract could be reached by the start of the season. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — While a new contract is not on the table yet, Jon Lester spoke like a man Friday that feels he definitely has reason to be optimistic he and the Red Sox will eventually work out a new deal.

Lester, after making his fifth start of the spring and lowering his ERA to 0.71, acknowledged that the Red Sox are busy right now. Not only are the Red Sox considering the future of their left-handed ace, they’re also trying to close in on a one-year extension for David Ortiz.

“I know they’ve been pretty busy with dealing with David’s stuff and all that,” Lester said Friday afternoon. “It’s a negotiation. No matter how optimistic people are about it, it’s a tough process. We’ll keep grinding it out and see where we get. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

In the final year of a five-year, $30 million deal paying him $13 million this season, Lester also said he would be willing to have talks extend into the regular season if there’s a reasonable expectation that a new contract is imminent.

“If you’re at the 5-yard line and you’re kind of closing in on the thing then, yeah, you’ll just spill it over but if we’re so far apart and it still doesn’t matter, then I think we’ll sit down and talk about it and see what the best interests are for both sides on that,” Lester said. “But as of right now, things are progressing and we’ll just keep hashing it out and see where it goes.”

Does Lester feel he’s in the red zone of closing in on a new deal?

“Not in the red zone right now. No, no, definitely not there but I think it’s going in the right direction. We’ve had good dialogue so that’s good.”

Lester’s comments come on the heels of a report from WEEI’s Rob Bradford that a deal is not close to being finalized.

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Jon Lester continues his dominant spring, A.J. Pierzynksi knocks in two as Red Sox tie Phils 03.21.14 at 4:21 pm ET
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Red Sox opening day starter Jon Lester has been nearly picture perfect  this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Red Sox opening day starter Jon Lester has been nearly picture perfect this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In many ways, it was the perfect outing for Jon Lester in what has been a nearly perfect spring training.

He retired the side in order in the first, worked out of jams in the third and fourth innings. And he batted twice without getting injured.

All in all, the lefty starter in line for the opening day nod in Baltimore accomplished what he wanted to in the next-to-last start before his March 31 assignment at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Lester threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering four hits, allowing one walk while striking out five as the Red Sox tied the Phillies, 2-2, in a game called after 10 innings at Bright House Field. Lester lowered his spring ERA to 0.71 in five spring starts. Lester threw 81 pitches, 55 for strikes, right on pace with what manager John Farrell had hoped for entering Lester’s third start of the spring.

“I felt good,” Lester said. “I felt like I got into a rhythm a little bit earlier than I did last time. Still didn’t have too good of a feel for my breaking ball and my changeup but that’ll come. I was overthrowing a little bit on those pitches but all in all, I was happy with fastball command and threw some cutters to both sides so it was good.

“I don’t know what it says as far as velocity but I feel like it’s coming out pretty well right now, just continue to build the pitches up.”

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Friday notes: John Farrell says Grady Sizemore ‘likely’ as his every day center fielder when ‘durability’ is on his side 03.21.14 at 12:53 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) has kept a close eye on Grady Sizemore this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Red Sox manager John Farrell (right) has kept a close eye on Grady Sizemore this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Grady Sizemore may or may not be the starting center fielder for the Red Sox when they take the field on March 31 at Camden Yards in Baltimore. But John Farrell made it clear that at some point, likely early in the season, when he does start to play, he’ll be the starting center fielder to stay.

“We have every reason to believe at this point that he is a likely candidate to become an every day player, with durability on his side at some point,” Farrell said of the veteran outfielder who is batting .360 in eight games this spring.

Recovering from chronic knee and back ailments over the past two seasons, Sizemore came into camp not having played a competitive game since Sept. 2011. Sizemore, who’s also had a sports hernia and a bad elbow, has impressed coaches and fans alike with athletic plays in the field and a compact, efficient swing at the plate.

“There’s a progression we’re following to get to everyday play but the most encouraging thing is he has not hit the proverbial wall where we’ve bumped up against the limits and have to pull back,” Farrell said before Friday’s game against Philadelphia at Bright House Field. “We haven’t reached that yet, which is all extremely positive.”

Sizemore played in all nine innings for the first time Thursday against the Yankees and Farrell said he came through it very well and is on schedule to return to the field in a minor league game Saturday. He’ll play for the Red Sox again on Sunday and Monday and be evaluated on Tuesday morning to see how he handled the three straight games and five in six days.

“The medical exam, the medical information is guiding us with a progression. But every piece of feedback from the medical staff has been positive with the end thought that he’ll become an every day player,” Farrell said. “”There’s no template. That why we have experts in [Sports Medical Director] Dan Dyrek and our medical staff that give us that guidance.”

Despite the encouraging tone, Farrell still would not commit to Sizemore even heading north with the team when they break camp on Saturday.

“I don’t know that I would go to that point yet,” Farrell said. “I think we need to get through this coming week first.”

If Sizemore does indeed start every day in center, he will likely be the leadoff hitter as well. Thursday night, he batted first, followed by Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. That is a scenario that could easily translate into the regular season.

“If we have Grady in the leadoff spot, it gives us another good player,” Farrell said. “The lineup we saw [Thursday] is one scenario, one version, right-handed, left-handed matchups that are there, rest requirements might be needed. I think you know who our guys are and roughly the spots they’re in the lineup. I think we showed early in the season and late in the season that we would make changes based on matchups or who’s swinging the bat a little bit better at a given time.”

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Clay Buchholz sharp early, tires late against Yankees, but shoulder ‘feels fine’ 03.20.14 at 8:36 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz fires a pitch Thursday night against the Yankees. (AP)

Clay Buchholz fires a pitch Thursday night against the Yankees. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A new approach to getting ready for the regular season seems to be agreeing with Clay Buchholz.

The right-hander, slotted into the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, looked sharp for most of his five innings Thursday night in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees at JetBlue Park.

Buchholz said early in spring training that with a spot assured in the rotation he would look to slowly increase his intensity during games and not start full throttle. On Thursday, he mixed in all of his pitches, working his curveball and two-seam fastball to generate a multitude of ground outs.

“It was mostly two-seam and cutters,” Buchholz said. “The two-seam, that’s the reason I throw it, to get ground balls. Whenever I’m staying on top of it and smooth through the delivery, that’s most of the times what happens.

“I was down in the zone for pretty much the first four innings. In the fifth inning, [the wind] started blowing a little bit, tried to get my legs back underneath me and started overthrowing. I left some balls up in hitters counts and gave up a couple of hits. But I needed to be in that 70 to 75-pitch range.”

Buchholz allowed five hits and three runs in his five innings, throwing 73 pitches (49 strikes). He walked one and struck out three. Buchholz is now 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA. He’s allowed 10 hits and walked three in 13 innings, striking out eight while allowing four runs.

“It’s different than the last couple of times out but I felt good with just about everything,” he said. “I battled a little bit with the changeup but other than that, threw every other pitch pretty well.”

Buchholz added that his right shoulder through four starts feels strong and nearly ready to start the season.

“It feels fine,” Buchholz said. “I think fatigue was the only thing that set in today. I thought like the ball was coming out of my hand better today than it has, with less effort. Felt good in the bullpen and felt good in the first four innings. It’s just getting that pitch count to where we need it to be before the season starts.

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Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford on Grady Sizemore, Craig Breslow and Xander Bogaerts 03.19.14 at 5:02 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford detail Wednesday’s news on Grady Sizemore, which includes Red Sox manager John Farrell announcing that the outfielder will play three straight games this weekend and five in six days as he makes a move to win the starting job in center field.

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