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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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.

‘€œYeah, 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.

‘€œI 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.

‘€œThis 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.

‘€œI 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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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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Red Sox regulars in Port Charlotte against Rays at 12:50 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Torey Luvullo managed the Red Sox lineup of regulars that made the 45-minute trip north on I-75 Monday morning to take on the Tampa Bay Rays.

Monday’s lineup:
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Shane Victorino RF
Jonny Gomes LF
Stephen Drew SS
Ryan Sweeney DH
Drew Sutton 3B
Mike Carp 1B
David Ross C
Alfredo Aceves P

Lovullo said Aceves was expected to get two innings of work and 35 pitches before Daniel Bard comes on for an inning.

Other notes: Felix Doubront threw 31 pitches in a two-inning simulated game Monday at JetBlue Park.

On Bard, Chris Hernandez and Terry Doyle following Aceves: “We’ve got Bardo, Hernandez and doyle. After that, go to younger kids. Goal right now is to get everybody their work in, get everyone up to their pitch counts, then make adjustments as needed. Pretty much the plan.”

MLB executive Tony LaRussa was in town to talk to Joe Maddon on Monday morning about MLB rule changes this year, most prominently the change that makes the fake throw to third and then first a balk this year. Maddon wasn’t a big fan and said teams will adjust. Lovullo agreed.

“I think it gives the baserunners a little bit more of an advantage to steal bases,” said Lovullo, who is serving as Farrell’s bench coach. “They’re very aware of the first to third move, which might slow their initial jump. We think there might be some new trending in holding runners on third base. You might see managers holding runners at third base as if they’re on first base. We’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen. We’re prepared for anything, because of the change. Moving forward, we think it’s going to help us more than anything.

On Bard: “As he’s starting to move forward, I think he’s on the right track and things are moving in a really positive direction for him. He’s comfortable and confident of getting back to the form that we’re all expecting. We don’t want to make much of it, other than letting him go out there and doing his thing and showing us where he’s at.”

On Farrell: “returning” to face Blue Jays in Dunedin Monday: “Sure there’s going to be mixed emotions on both sides. John will go out there and handle it well.” Lovullo was Farrell’s first base coach for two seasons in Toronto before being hired to serve as Farrell’s bench coach in Boston.

On returning to Toronto on Friday, April 5: “I think [Red Sox third base coach] Brian Butterfield will have that place torn down, because they love him there. He’s going to get a standing ovation. Wait for that one. Remember I said it. But deservedly so. He spent a lot of time there and did some incredible things.”

On his experience in Toronto: “Personally speaking, I spent two really good years there. I have nothing but fond memories of the front office to the people inside the clubhouse, they’re my friends and I miss them. I’ll be anxious to get up there and say hello to them. However the fans perceive that and what I may encounter up there, it’s up to them.”

On what Yunel Escobar, whom he knew in Toronto the last two seasons, will mean to Rays at shortstop: “As far as tools and overall raw stregnth, he’s top of the list. He makes every play look easy. It’s a new fresh start for him and I know he’s probably going to take his game to the next level and become an elite shortstop, which he certainly has the capabilities of becoming. He’s a special guy with a special baseball mind.”

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

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Xander Bogaerts off to Taiwan for WBC: ‘I’m excited’ 02.23.13 at 5:22 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts said Saturday he was excited and looking forward to leaving for Taiwan to train with the Netherlands for the upcoming world baseball classic. Bogaerts is one of four Red Sox players in the system taking part in the upcoming WBC. Bogearts left late Saturday night for the long trip to Asia.

Bogaerts certainly went off on a high note, singling home a run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday in Boston’s 4-3 loss to the Rays at JetBlue Park and making a nice defensive play in a rundown to end the Tampa Bay seventh inning.

“I’m excited to be part of the team,” said Bogaerts, who grew up in Aruba, a territory of the Netherlands. “I’ll get to meet the guys again. I had a long time without seeing some of them, so it’€™ll be fun to be playing back with them. [I'm looking forward to] just being with all the guys that I grew up playing with or playing against. That’€™ll make it exciting.”

Bogaerts is leaving just as he is getting to know his teammates in his first big league training camp with the Red Sox.

“Yeah, that’s what makes this kind of tough,” said Bogaerts. “This is my first big league spring training and it would be nice if
I could stay around the big league guys but it’€™s also a good experience to go there and play in the World Baseball Classic. So I’€™m excited.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell said he’s more than supportive of players like Bogaerts and Shane Victorino leaving camp for the WBC.

‘€œMarch 3 is the day that we have that Shane and other guys will travel,” Farrell said. “Team Puerto Rico is going to be here. Team Mexico is going to be in Arizona as Team USA. So it’€™s more travel for Xander and those players traveling to Asia.

“We know going in that Xander’€™s going to get regular at-bats at either DH or third base. With [Oscar] Villarreal and [Jose] De La Torre, they’re going to be pitching out of the bullpen, so they’re going to get the right number of innings in advance of the season.

‘€œThe one thing that [Team USA manager] Joe Torre has mentioned to us, he obviously has run spring training many years, he knows those individual players are also getting ready for their season. They’re about competing and trying to win that tournament, but at the same time he’€™s balancing the individual getting ready for their own respective seasons. We can’€™t dictate anything. Those players are going to go and compete for Team USA or any team.

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, MLB, WBC
Red Sox drop Grapefruit League opener to Rays as Jose Iglesias goes yard at 4:25 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, allowing one run in 20 pitches, while Jose Iglesias hit a two-run homer over the Monster as the Red Sox fell to the Rays, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at JetBlue Park in the Grapefruit League opener for both clubs. Xander Bogaerts, in his final at-bat before leaving for the WBC, singled home a run in the ninth to make it close. Daniel Nava struck out looking with the tying run on base to end the game before a sellout crowd of 9,680 at JetBlue Park.

Lackey was making his first outing since Sept. 25, 2011 and his first since Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

He allowed one run, one hit, walked one, struck out one and a hit a batter as the Rays managed just one run after loading the bases with none out in the first.

Ryan Roberts drove in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to right off Lackey, scoring Ben Zobrist. The Rays added another in the third as Jarrod Saltalamacchia had an inning to forget. He dropped a foul pop that extended the at-bat of Jack Cust. On the next pitch, Desmond Jennings stole third and Saltalamacchia’s throw sailed into left field, allowing Jennings to score, making it 2-0.

The Red Sox went quietly in the first six innings before Jeremy Hazelbaker walked with one out. Iglesias followed by driving a first-pitch fastball over the Monster in left for Boston’s first homer of the spring, tying the game, 2-2.

The Rays got those two runs back in the eighth when Leslie Anderson drilled a two-run homer to right off Red Sox righty Oscar Villarreal (0-1) with two outs.

Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Hazelbaker had doubles as extra-base hits accounted for four of Boston’s seven hits on the day.

The Red Sox return to action across the state on Sunday as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter at 1:05 p.m. as lefty Jon Lester makes his spring debut. Boston plays split-squad games on Monday with Steven Wright starting against Toronto in Dunedin at 1:05 p.m. and Alfredo Aceves starting against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte at 1:05 p.m.

POST-GAME NOTES from John Farrell:

On the homer from Iglesias: ‘€œWish there were a couple more like it. As we have commented on him as camp has unfolded, he’€™s a little bit more upright, a little more free in his overall swing. He got a fastball up in the zone and did what he’€™s capable of doing. I think more than anything, it’€™s just the freeness and aggressiveness of the swing.”

On Xander Bogaerts, RBI single, nice defensive play in rundown: ‘€œA good heads up play on the rundown we executed. He’€™s got a good swing through the zone and like I said the other day, he’€™s a bright-looking young player. He’€™s heady. He’€™s got field awareness. Good things are ahead for him.’€

On Daniel Nava first base defense: ‘€œAs we’€™ve seen in the work, that wasn’€™t an easy play on that ground ball by [Ben] Zobrist. He looks fine over there for right now. The little things, even on the errant throw [by Iglesias] that you see the footwork where he adjusted on the bag, some things that are more instinctual. To have him step in and the last time he played first base was in junior college, and he’€™s handled it well.”

On Clay Buchholz 37-pitch simulated game: ‘€œHe’€™ll have a side on Monday and then he’€™s set to go Tuesday or Wednesday. It’€™s yet to be determined. We’€™ll fit that into how it starts to plan out for the start of the regular season. He’€™s gradually ramping up the intensity [on fielding], not only just with field tests as far as straight-ahead running or any kind of cuts, but in time, that’€™ll take its place. We want to prioritize the work he does on the mound right now.’€

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

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, john lackey, jose iglesias
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