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Photos: 2013 Red Sox spring training 03.16.13 at 11:15 am ET
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WEEI has been in Fort Myers, Fla. covering the Red Sox for over a month as the team prepares for the 2013 season. Click here or on the image below to see a photo gallery of our spring training coverage.

Pedro Martinez sits down with Dennis and Callahan at JetBlue Park (WEEI.com)

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Jonny Gomes launches moonshot, Will Middlebrooks dodges bullet in Red Sox spring loss to Orioles 02.27.13 at 10:30 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes swings away during Wednesday's game against Baltimore in Sarasota. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

SARASOTA, Fla. — In a spring training game that saw Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffer a scare with his right wrist, Jonny Gomes blasted a long home run to left field while several Red Sox relievers looked strong early on as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 5-3, Wednesday night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.

Reliever Franklin Morales started the game and retired the side in order on 12 pitches, eight strikes. The lefty was making his first appearance of the spring.

But the bigger story came in top of the first when the Red Sox (2-4) appeared to dodge a major bullet. With an 0-1 count, Middlebrooks took an inside fastball from Orioles starter Chris Tillman. Middlebrooks attempted to check his swing and avoid being hit. He was successful in avoiding the pitch but he immediately grabbed his right wrist and went to manager John Farrell. He was taken out of the game and replaced with Pedro Ciricaco. As he went into the dugout, he threw his helmet against the back wall in obvious frustration.

[AUDIO: Red Sox manager John Farrell talks about team apparently dodging a bullet with Will Middlebrooks.]

The team later said Middlebrooks, who broke the same wrist last August in Cleveland when hit by a pitch, was suffering from “right wrist soreness” and would be re-evaluated Thursday in Fort Myers. After the game Middlebrooks said he felt no pain and it was “just a scare” and a “freak thing that scared everybody.” He pointed to the outside of his right wrist, where he suffered the break last August and said the initial discomfort was in the same area.

Alex Speier has much more, including reaction from Middlebrooks.

The group of Morales, Joel Hanrahan, Koji Uehara, Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller all threw a single inning of work. Only Hanrahan allowed a run, and it was unearned, as Ciriaco threw high to first on a routine grounder in the second inning, and Nava couldn’t reach up and grab it.

But the good run of pitching ended in the sixth when Junichi Tazawa was roughed up for two runs on four hits and committed a balk in the sixth. The two runs came on an opposite-field homer to left by Chris Davis, erasing Boston’s 2-1 lead and putting Baltimore ahead, 3-2. Tazawa has allowed five hits and two runs over two innings in his first two appearances. Drake Britton allowed two more runs on three hits in the seventh as Baltimore built a 5-2 lead. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell notes Wednesday: Felix Doubront cleared for start, David Ortiz takes a personal leave at 6:35 pm ET
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John Farrell speaks before Wednesday's game with the Orioles in Sarasota. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

SARASOTA, Fla. — Felix Doubront completed his simulated game Wednesday successfully in Fort Myers and has passed the final hurdle for starting a spring game, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell. That start will come Monday afternoon at JetBlue Park against Tampa Bay.

The lefty was slowed at the start of camp due to fatigue in his left [throwing] shoulder and was held back. He began throwing a week later than the other four projected starters in the rotation. He threw live batting practice earlier this week before throwing his simulated game on Wednesday.

“He was very good. Two sim innings and he’s on tap for Monday,” Farrell said before Wednesday’s game against the Orioles.

After some confusion, another pitcher, Alfredo Aceves, will indeed pitch for Mexico for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Farrell had initially informed his right-hander, who was initially on the provisional roster, that he was not selected for the regular roster and would not be playing. That apparently was not the case.

Farrell said it’s likely that Aceves will start for Mexico, which is part of the reason the Red Sox wanted to stretch him out to start camp.

David Ortiz left the team Wednesday for the Dominican Republic to take care of a personal matter.

“He’s taking a couple of personal days,” Farrell said. “He’s got a personal issue he’s taking care of right now.”

Other pregame notes included Farrell’s reaction to St. Louis manager and former catcher Mike Matheny instructing his catchers to avoid all contact at the plate when possible: “You want the aggressiveness to always remain in the game,” Farrell said. “But at the same time, when a catcher can be opened up, in some cases, for a very severe injury, you almost have to listen to the comments of Mike and Bruce Bochy, former catchers who have sustained a serious injury from it. Their comments probably resonate more than those of who have not been back there. I guess I take the view of the game from the traditional standpoint that you want good, hard play as long as it’s not a cheap shot. Where do you draw the line on a play at the plate? If it’s a hard slide that makes contact. Maybe just a mandatory slide rather than just a head-up, full-on collision, I can see the merit in preserving guys’ health. They can be scary, no doubt about. [Jorge] Posada took one from Hinske that I still don’t know how it got up from it but he did. I think the last thing anyone want is to hurt anyone in the game.
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Red Sox take on Oriole regulars in Sarasota at 4:43 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes (5) arrives at Ed Smith Stadium for Wednesday night's game as the Orioles pay tribute to the late Earl Weaver (4). (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Red Sox will send lefty reliever Franklin Morales to the mound Wednesday night in their first night game of the spring, as they visit Ed Smith Stadium for a date with the Baltimore Orioles.

After getting pounded, 15-4, Tuesday by St. Louis at JetBlue Park, the 2-3 Red Sox look to get back on the winning track against a lineup of primarily regulars against the Orioles.

The Red Sox lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Shane Victorino RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Jonny Gomes LF
Daniel Nava 1B
Mark Hamilton DH

Franklin Morales SP

The Orioles line up this way:

Nolan Reimold DH
Brian Roberts 2B
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Chris Davis1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nate McClouth LF
Wilson Betemit 3B

Chris Tillman SP

For more, visit the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

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Daniel Bard and his fastball: ‘I feel good about where it’s headed’ 02.25.13 at 7:27 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez (left) works with Daniel Bard on mechanics. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — There has been much discussion about Daniel Bard‘s velocity – or lack thereof – on his fastball. The 98 and 99 MPH readings that were commonplace in the spring of 2009 and ’10 are not there.

But the right-hander isn’t worried.

He threw mostly fastballs to the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth inning Monday, his only inning of work, and those fastballs ranged mostly between 92-94 MPH, with a couple topping out at 95.

“I think overall, I would say it was better,” Bard said. “I’m just still working hard to get on top of every pitch. Still have a little bit of a tendency a little rotational and I think that’s where you see some of those errant ones. For the most part, mechanics feel good. Just that one little thing, keeping my hand on top of the ball and driving down through the zone is key for me.

“It’s a small thing that takes a lot of reps to get it right. I had a some bad habits built up from last year. We’ve corrected most of them and that’s just the one thing we’re working on. I feel good. I feel like I can finally trust myself with throwing the ball where I want to and just attacking guys.”

[Daniel Bard feels more and more confident with each outing.]

Bard lost his fastball when the Red Sox moved him to the rotation and he started pitching with the mentality of conserving energy and pitches. Now back in the bullpen, Bard believes that once the mechanics are fixed, his upper-90s fastball will return.

“I think so. I think there’s probably three or four miles an hour just in having a little better finish on top of the ball, just backspinning the ball,” Bard said after Monday’s outing. “It’s close. I’m doing on certain pitches and not others. When that last bit of mechanics becomes consistent, I feel good about where it’s headed.”
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David Ross takes the fall for the uncomfortable Alfredo Aceves at 6:58 pm ET
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In a foreshadowing of their first inning, David Ross (right) and Alfredo Aceves (left) confer before Monday's game in Port Charlotte. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — It’s odd by even spring training standards – two visits to the mound by the catcher to speak with his pitcher, including one after just three pitches into the game.

That was what happened Monday at Charlotte Sports Park as Alfredo Aceves didn’t like what his catcher David Ross was throwing down for signals. Aceves gave up two hits and two runs in the opening inning as part of a 29-pitch, 14-strike effort over two innings. He did not factor into the decision as the Red Sox fell to the Rays, 6-3.

And to Ross’ credit, being the veteran he is, he took full responsibility for Aceves not feeling comfortable in the first inning of his first spring training start.

“Yeah, it’s early. It’s early,” Ross said. “It’s one of the things that stink as a catcher when you feel like you ruin a guy’s rhythm sometimes when you’re not on the same page because I have to know what’s coming and know where they want me to set up and know where they want the pitches thrown and signs. It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating for me just because I know it’s me. When I’m just not on the same page, I have to get right with him. It comes with time. I’m new.

“I say, ‘what do you want?’ If he’s shaking me off three or four times, and I can’t get it right, I just ask him what pitch he wants to throw and make sure we’re on the same page as far as what sign we’re going with. Sometimes I go through signs, I go fastball away, fastball in, and then curveball, slider, I may have forgotten changeup or maybe he wanted fastball up. It’s just me being still being new and messing with everybody’s rhythm around here. I’d rather him call me out there and get it right from the get-go. Sometimes, I think I hinder those guys and make them think too much and they’re not as comfortable. Today was a good learning process for me and next time will be a better outing.”

For his part, Aceves said he’s still getting familiar with Ross.

“This is the first time that we’ve thrown,” Aceves said. “He’s a good catcher. For me he’s a good catcher, and he’s going to help a lot of pitchers. He’s got a lot of knowledge in baseball. Got a lot of time in baseball. So he knows about calling pitches, how to go against the hitters, go after them, go after the outs.”

Mixed signals or not, there was nothing wrong with Aceves’ arm, as he was sitting on 94 MPH when he was throwing his fastball, which was most of the time in his two-inning stint.

“I didn’t know. I was kind of surprised. I was like, I’m throwing 94? I thank God I have the skills,” Aceves said. “I do the little things. As a team. I work out, I do my sprints, I do my stretches with the trainers. They’ve been good with us. They have our backs. They always say, you know, you’ve got the shoulder program, you’ve got mound, it helps a lot.”

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Dustin Pedroia homers, Daniel Bard throws scoreless inning as Red Sox lose to Rays at 4:06 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia homers off Alex Cobb in the first inning Monday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia connected for his first homer of spring training and Mike Carp had an RBI double in the second inning as a split-squad Red Sox club lost to the Rays, 6-3, Monday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park.

Alfredo Aceves gaves up two hits and two runs in two innings of work, walking two and striking out none. He threw 29 pitches, 14 for strikes in his first start of the Grapefruit League season. After Pedroia staked Aceves to a 1-0 lead with the homer in the top of the first, Aceves gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning on a Yunel Escobar double to left.

[Dustin Pedroia talks about his day at the plate and finding offensive rhythm in spring.]

Carp, playing in his first action of the spring since being acquired from Seattle last week, came through with an RBI double to right-center in the top of the second, scoring Ryan Sweeney and trying the game, 2-2.

[Mike Carp talks about being happy to contribute right away in spring training.]

The Rays took the lead for good with three runs off Chris Hernandez (0-1) in the fourth.

Daniel Bard threw a scoreless fifth inning, with one walk and a strikeout. He got out of a first-and-second, one-out jam in the fifth when Sean Rodriguez lined into a double play. As he did against Northeastern last Thursday, Bard threw a mix of fastballs and sliders, with his slider being his most effective pitch. He struck out Hak-Ju Lee with a slider for the first out of the inning before hitting Leslie Anderson with a slider. He then walked Luke Scott before getting Rodriguez to hit into the inning-ending double-play.

Scouts recorded Bard’s fastball sitting between 92-94 MPH, topping out at 95.

The Red Sox played with a lineup of mostly regulars while a lineup of reserves beat the Jays in the other split-squad game up in Dunedin.

The Red Sox will host the St. Louis Cardinals at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Post-game quotables:

David Ross on Aceves: “Good, good. Early on, I think a lot of these guys are working on fastball command. They’re flipping breaking stuff in there but when in doubt, we’re throwing fastballs, trying to get ahead of hitters and work down in the zone. So, you’re seeing a lot of fastball counts, that’s why you see a lot of balls getting hit hard. It’s just kind of making us throw strike one. The one thing I would say we have to work on, it’s still early but we have to get ahead, throw strike one down in the zone and we can be the aggressor.”

Ross on a mound meeting with Aceves after only three pitches: “Yeah, it’s early. It’s early. It’s one of the things that stink as a catcher when you feel like you ruin a guy’s rhythm sometimes when you’re not on the same page because I have to know what’s coming and know where they want me to set up and know where they want the pitches thrown and signs. It’s one of those things that’s really frustrating for me just because I know it’s me. When I’m just not on the same page, I have to get right with him. It comes with time. I’m new.”

“I say, ‘what do you want?’ If he’s shaking me off three or four times, and I can’t get it right, I just ask him what pitch he wants to throw and make sure we’re on the same page as far as what sign we’re going with. Sometimes I go through signs, I go fastball away, fastball in, and then curveball, slider, I may have forgotten changeup or maybe he wanted fastball up. It’s just me being still being new and messing with everybody’s rhythm around here. I’d rather him call me out there and get it right from the get-go. Sometimes, I think I hinder those guys and make them think too much and they’re not as comfortable. Today was a good learning process for me and next time will be a better outing.”

Aceves on getting familiar with Ross: “This is the first time that we’ve thrown. He’s a good catcher. For me he’s a good catcher, and he’s going to help a lot of pitchers. He’s got a lot of knowledge in baseball. Got a lot of time in baseball. So he knows about calling pitches, how to go against the hitters, go after them, go after the outs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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