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Observations from Red Sox’ 3-2 win over Rays: Rusney Castillo makes play for right, Brian Johnson depth option 03.29.15 at 5:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rusney Castillo is making it harder and harder to leave him off the Opening Day roster.

The Cuban outfielder, who has overcome oblique issues early in camp, showed again Sunday in a 3-2 10-inning win over the Rays at JetBlue Park why he is regarded as such a dynamic player, and why the Red Sox invested $72.5 million over seven years in his potential.

With one out and the go-ahead runner at third in the top of the tenth of a 2-2 game, Castillo ranged far to his left, slid in foul territory and caught the ball just before it hit the grass. He popped up and fired a seed to catcher Matt Spring, who applied the tag on the runner trying to score for the inning-ending out.

“I don’t know that you can make a play better than the one he made,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Diving play into foul territory, gets up, sets his feet and throws a 150-foot strike. A dynamic player when you consider the skill set he has. If there was any question on whether he could play right field, I think he’s certainly answering those for us in camp here. We were over in Jupiter, he handled a sinking line drive that was going towards the line. His reads and routes are fine. Obviously, he has enough arm to play the position. A very good athlete.”

“It turned out to be a good play,” Castillo said. “I’m always kind of anticipating that kind of thing to happen. You have men on third in a big situation, you hope that you can make a play like that and execute the way it turned out. Just fortunate everything went our way.

“It’s just as natural to me as center field is. I played both center and right field in Cuba. It’s not a new position. It’s not a foreign position. I pretty comfortable in both.”

Leading off the bottom of the inning, he did not homer over the Monster, as he did to win the game against the Twins last Thursday. Instead, he settled for a single to left to open the inning. He advanced to second on a passed ball and sped to third on an Allen Craig fly to medium center.

One out later, Castillo scored the game-winner again when Deven Marrero singled off the netting in left field for a 3-2 victory. Castillo is now batting .263 with five runs scored in his seven spring games.

“I feel pretty good,” Castillo said. “Thankfully, I’m healthy, having no restrictions. I feel good. My swing is in a good place.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, brian johnson, Rusney Castillo
Clay Buchholz says Opening Day nod ‘a big, big honor’ at 2:43 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz got the message loud and clear.

This is his time, his year, to step up and shine as the time-vested leader of the Red Sox rotation. The Red Sox rewarded him for his diligence this spring with the nod as the club’s Opening Day starter on April 6 in Philly.

“Obviously it’s a big, big honor,” Buchholz said before Sunday’s game at JetBlue Park. “It’s another game. I have to prepare just as I would for any other start. I think it gets a lot of publicity and lot of attention on it just for it being Opening Day. I’m willing to try and take it as normal as possible and try to cherish the moment because there aren’t many people that get to be a part of that or actually be an Opening Day starter, especially for an organization like Boston. Yeah, I’m happy about it.”

While the official announcement was made by manager John Farrell Sunday morning in the third base dugout, the message that the organization expected him to step forward was made clear to the 30-year right-hander much earlier.

“It’s something that you can use to your advantage for sure, knowing that there were a lot of changes done and made to this team in the offseason. Knowing what they did with the offense this offseason, we’re in a better place right now on paper to get the season going and to really feel confident about what this team can do. I think everybody is going to be excited once we leave out of here and once we get to Philly, regardless of how cold it is. A change might be good for a couple of guys. It’s an honor. I think everybody here is ready to go.”

“We have meetings once we get here with Ben and Juan and John. We sit down and sort of go over what they expect and the outlook on everything coming into camp. And that was one of the messages Ben gave to me.”

The Red Sox have placed a great deal of trust in Buchholz, mainly because they feel he has matured. Buchholz showed off his maturity and perspective Sunday.

“I’ve been here for a little bit,” Buchholz said. “I’ve had some ups and downs, both on the extreme side. I feel like I’ve matured a lot as person and baseball player. I think it’s just knowing that nobody is going to be perfect but if you practice to be perfect, I think the direction it’s going to go is a lot less [of a problem] than if you don’t practice that way, and that’s one of the things I’ve tried to instill in myself, try to do everything hard, work hard and be prepared. When adversity is presented to you, I think you really know how to respond to that in a different way, going through it before and then having a lot of success. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. It wasn’t always fun but I think it’s put me in a pretty good spot.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz,
John Farrell confirms Edward Mujica will start season as closer, Koji Uehara ‘not likely’ to start season at 1:11 pm ET
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Edward Mujica

Edward Mujica

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox pitching staff is still in flux one week before the season.

Koji Uehara won’t be ready for the season. Joe Kelly is still a big question mark. Edward Mujica is the closer for now but other options could be available.

The numerous decisions to be made is making John Farrell a busy man, as he acknowledged before Sunday’s game at JetBlue Park against the Rays.

First off, Farrell announced Uehara felt a twinge in his hamstring during a throwing session Saturday.

“We’re not scheduling a game yet,” Farrell said. “He’s going to need some additional increase in intensity and rehab to the hamstring. Whether or not that includes a bullpen after a couple of a days off, that’s probably our approach right now where he’ll take a couple of days down. He felt it a little bit [Saturday] in the bullpen. He’s still able to do throwing to the point of keeping his arm in shape to a certain extent. But we’re not game-ready yet.”

Who will be the closer? Edward Mujica, followed by a combination of possibilities, including Junichi Tazawa, Alexi Ogando and even lefty Tommy Layne.

“There’s been times where he’s thrown a ball down and away to right-handers with good stuff,” Farrell said of Mujica. “Right now, he would be the guy that we turn to in closing situations. I will also say that we would look to matchup in the ninth inning as well. We’ll look to exploit the best matchup, and that could be any one of three or four guys down there to finish a game.”

“Taz, if it’s Ogando. Against a tough lefty, it could be Tommy Layne. We’re not limiting any of our options.”

Farrell wouldn’t rule out a closer-by-committee but suggested it’s not the first option.

“There might be days where [Mujica] is not available,” Farrell said. “That would be no different than if Koji [weren’t] available. With Koji now not likely to start the season with us, if Koji were unavailable on a given day, it probably would’ve been Eddie. So there are other options. I’m not saying this is strictly a closer-by-committee. But we would look to close games out with Eddie but if there are certain situations that we feel like the better matchup is with a left-hander, I’m not opposed to doing that.”

Matt Barnes is an interesting possibility as well, somewhere in the bullpen. The right-hander who relieved Steven Wright Saturday, has been moved from starting to a relieving role.

“That’s an ongoing discussion,” Farrell said. “It’s a guy that’s been throwing three pitches for strikes so when you profile him out, he profiles as a starter. He’s also throwing the ball very well in shorter stints. He’s a good pitcher. We just want to be sure. There’s a number of moving parts in all of this, Joe Kelly’s situation to Koji’s situation. We’re taking every available opportunity to make decisons that are best for the invidual pitchers and where they plug in for us.”

As for the starting rotation, Joe Kelly (biceps) has been pitching in minor league games and the team wants to keep its disabled list options available if they decide to leave him behind when the team breaks camp. This is partially why Farrell did not announce a third pitcher for Philadelphia on Sunday, after confirming that Clay Buchholz would start the opener, followed by Rick Porcello on April 8.

With the possibility of both Uehara and Kelly starting the season on DL, the Red Sox could decide to take Steven Wright north and possibly Barnes.

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, Edward Mujica, Joe Kelly
Christian Vazquez to see James Andrews for second opinion at 10:58 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The young star catcher of the Red Sox is going to see the expert in elbows to get a second opinion.

Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Sunday morning that Christian Vazquez will make the trip north to Pensacola, Fla. to visit with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.

“I don’t know about the severity of it right now,” Farrell said. “We know there’s been findings based on the MRI. I think anytime the elbow is talked about, you go to someone who’s probably the source in our industry, and that’s Dr. Andrews, to take a further look at this.”

Farrell noted that Vazquez got the earliest possible appointment with Andrews.

“He’s usually a pretty busy guy, unfortunately,” Farrell said of the renown orthopedist.

An MRI performed on Friday after his last appearance behind the plate revealed “findings” in his right elbow.

The team has shut down the 24-year-old catcher indefinitely as doctors look into what might be wrong with the right arm. Now, Farrell and his staff must decide between Humberto Quintero and Blake Swihart as the backup behind Ryan Hanigan.

“We’ve got to evaluate all guys behind the plate and take every piece of available information to make a decision later on in the week,” Farrell said. “I think it’s more about leading the pitchers at this point. The best way I could describe it is that there’s not going to be one thing we hang our hat on when we make that decision. We’re about winning games and we’ll put the best team on field.

“My view is that in our lineup, our catcher was going to hit ninth no matter what, [or] who they are. I think that’s just a sign of the strength of the rest of the lineup. Again, all these things will be discussed and come to the decision that works best for us right now.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Dr. James Andrews
John Farrell (finally) confirms Clay Buchholz as Opening Day starter: ‘This is his time’ at 10:27 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Farrell finally dispensed with the drama toward the end of his Sunday pre-game briefing with reporters at JetBlue Park.

Clay Buchholz will be the starting pitcher when the Red Sox begin the season April 6 in Philadelphia. Rick Porcello will start the second game on April 8 while the third pitcher for the series is undecided, pending roster moves in the final week before the team breaks camp.

Farrell made the announcement unprompted toward the end of the session with reporters, after several media inquiries the last three weeks were met with polite procrastination from the Red Sox skipper.

“Buchholz will start Monday in Philly,” Farrell announced.

What went into the decision?

“A whole plan, I’ll leave it at that,” Farrell quipped, before adding some insight and perspective. “He came into camp in a good place, both mentally and physically. Each bullpen to game outing he pitched, his delivery is on line. The line score last time out doesn’t reflect the way the ball came out of his hand. Now, line scores are important. I get it. But he feels good physically. He’s confident. We’ve seen when Clay has been in that place, he’s one of the better pitchers in baseball. We fully expect that to begin the season in that form.”

Buchholz allowed 12 hits and four runs in five-plus innings in his last start Friday at Disney against the Braves but has been very much in command this spring, striking out 18 batters and walking just three in 15 innings, posting a 3.60 ERA.

“He’s embraced it. He understands and has lived the changes that have gone on around him. He is fully aware of everything that is Boston and that goes along with being a starting pitcher for the Red Sox. He doesn’t back away from it. He may go about it in his own way. He’s not the most vocal guy in the world. He’s been here for a number of years and to me, he’s in a position to embrace that and assume that.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 Red Sox spring training, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Philadelphia Phillies
Observations from Red Sox’ 9-6 win over Rays: Steven Wright, Matt Barnes shine, Hanley Ramirez (2 RBI), Mike Napoli (HR) 03.28.15 at 5:44 pm ET
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Hanley Ramirez swings away Saturday against the Rays in spring training action. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Hanley Ramirez swings away Saturday against the Rays in spring training action. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Steven Wright and Matt Barnes made their best pitches for spots on the Red Sox roster in Saturday’s 9-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli also made big contributions in the win as the Red Sox try to build some momentum at the end of spring training and get over the sting of losing catcher Christian Vazquez indefinitely with a problematic right elbow.

Wright no-hit the Rays over the first three innings and appeared ready to get out of the fourth with another scoreless frame before Xander Bogaerts bobbled a routine two-out grounder in the fourth, opening the floodgates for five unearned runs off Wright.

The knuckleballing Wright still earned the win, improving to 3-0 this spring. He has an impressive 1.32 ERA, allowing just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings.

“I thought he really established a release point from the second inning on,” manager John Farrell said. “There’s a two-out error, you’d like to see the ability to pick up your teammate a little bit. I’m not saying he lost the strike zone. They swung the bat and got their base hits. Up until that point, he’s gaining touch and feel to off-speed knuckleball. He got a strikeout of [James] Loney on it. I’m a fan of the knuckleball because of the contrast of style.”

“They got a little [more] aggressive than they were at the beginning,” Wright said. “I felt like that they were making me show them I could throw it for a strike. I don’t feel like they really got good wood on any of them but they were aggressive and they just started finding the holes. They’re a good-hitting team and some of these guys I’ve faced in the past. They’re able to put good wood on it, when you do that, put the ball in play, you start making things happen. Unfortunately, that’s what happened today.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, matt barnes, steven wright
Are Ryan Hanigan and Humberto Quintero the solutions while Christian Vazquez heals? at 5:10 pm ET
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Ryan Hanigan

Ryan Hanigan

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — So what now for the Red Sox as they look for solutions to their suddenly paper thin catching situation?

The obvious solution is already in front of them.

Ryan Hanigan and Humberto Quintero. The two veterans. The 35-year-old Quintero is a defensive specialist on his eight major league team, the last five of which he made after signing a minor league contract. He was signed on Jan. 12 after the Mariners released him after last season. The 34-year-old Hanigan played in a career-high 112 games in 2012 as the Reds won the NL Central Division. But since then, his numbers have dropped, playing in 75 and 84 games the last two seasons with the Reds and Rays, respectively. But Hanigan said Saturday he is “absolutely” ready to be the primary catcher if Vazquez is out indefinitely.

“I always train to come in to be a starting guy,” Hanigan said. “That’s what I always wanted, to tell you the truth. I train that way in the offseason so I’m going to work hard to be ready whenever my name is called. I figured that would probably be the situation. But put in my work daily and keep the body going and get on the field.

“You have to put in a lot of time after the game, recovery-wise. As much time as you put in preparing, you have to put in your hour, hour-and-a-half after to make sure you’re ready for the next day. I’ve tweaked my program off and on through the years to try and figure out how my body works and the best way to make myself feel good and fresh every day. You just have to be diligent and be on it and just put in time. These guys [training staff] are great back there. They’re always there for me.”

Blake Swihart is just 22 and considered the second-best catching prospect behind Vazquez in the system. He can hit but the Red Sox would like to see him seasoned more behind the plate. Still, he’s a good enough prospect to have been mentioned this offseason along with Mookie Betts in Cole Hamels trade speculation.

Hanigan’s heart went out to Vazquez when he heard the news that the MRI didn’t come back clean on Saturday.

“It’s tough. I don’t know what to say about that,” Hanigan said. “He’s worked hard. I know he’s excited but he’s young and he’s going to have a bright future and it’s just too bad. I haven’t had a chance to really talk to him yet. I just heard today as well. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Man, he’s a good kid. He worked hard. It’s just too bad. Things happen. He’ll be back. He’s just going to have to put in the work to get himself back. The positive thing is whatever happens, he won’t have to deal with the rest of his career. Get it taken of now. I don’t know what the details are and I don’t want to say anything more about it. I was looking forward to working with him this year. It’s just too bad.

“I don’t speculate. I didn’t know what was going on. I had some arm problems when I was younger, too. I wasn’t sure of the extent of it. You just never know. Yeah, it had been 12 or 13 days at this point, it’s getting to be go-time here. You never know what’s going on. I don’t really worry about the trainers. They know what they’re doing. They get these guys right. When you find out what the deal is all you can do is feel for the kid. You know he’s pumped up, excited, ready to go. It’s just a tough thing but he’ll back. He’ll be back. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Humberto Quintero
John Farrell all but rules out Christian Vazquez for start of season after ‘findings’ in right elbow at 12:48 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — John Farrell confirmed the concerning news regarding the right elbow of star young catcher Christian Vazquez before Saturday’s game against the Rays.

“There’s some findings in the MRI,” Farrell announced of the test on Vazquez’s arm on Friday. “To what extent, that’s not being determined right now. There’s likely going to be a second opinion. So, we’re still in a little bit of a fact-finding mode right now. What that means going forward is … there’s no clear-cut plan going forward yet. Hopefully, through the coming days, we would have some more definitive information and then a follow-up plan after that.”

What was not as clear from Farrell was whether that information suggested actual ligament damage in the elbow.

“I was not told specifically what was going on there,” Farrell said. “If, in fact, it involves [ligament damage], to what extent, if it is involved, we just know that there have been some findings in the MRI. I think before we get too far ahead of ourselves, that’s why a second opinion will be had and information compared. But clearly the MRI suggests that more information has got to be had.

“Whether or not there is a contrast MRI performed, where there is a dye injected, I don’t know if that was done [Friday] or if it will be done going forward. We’re still gathering as much information as we can.”

Vazquez had the MRI after catching Joe Kelly for three innings Friday in an intersquad game and going 1-for-2 in three plate appearances.

“He kind of plateaued,” said Farrell. “You would think that after 11, 12 days, if it was just some abnormal soreness, you’d think at some point you’d get over that. That’s why, when he kind of plateaued, even when the volume and the intensity was picking up, we said, ‘let’s check it out’ and that’s where we are right now.

“He was making progress and the soreness and stiffness was getting out of there and was throwing,” Farrell said. “But then the MRI suggests we have to keep finding more information.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, MRI
Christian Vazquez set to have second opinion after MRI spots ‘something’ in his right elbow at 9:38 am ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

The Red Sox and Christian Vazquez are keeping their fingers crossed.

The club’s 24-year-old super catching prospect told reporters in Fort Myers Saturday morning that an MRI performed on his sore right elbow “found something” but added doctors have not concluded a firm diagnosis as of Saturday morning.

For that reason, Vazquez indicated he will have a second opinion on the elbow.

“I’m waiting, I’m waiting,” Vazquez said, before adding “I’ll be fine.”

Friday’s MRI came after Vazquez caught Joe Kelly for three innings in an intersquad game in Fort Myers. Vazquez was kept from throwing to any base in an effort to protect the arm. In three plate appearances, he went 1-for-2 with a walk. He singled on a ground ball up the middle and grounded out to shortstop.

If Vazquez, who indicated earlier in the week that he’d be ready for the season, isn’t ready to go, then rookie Blake Swihart could get a chance to stick with the team when they break camp next Saturday.

Read More: blake swihart, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez,
Observations from Red Sox’ 4-2 rain-shortened loss in Disney: Mookie Betts (HR) shines, Clay Buchholz (12 hits) spotty 03.27.15 at 4:58 pm ET
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Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Mookie Betts homers in the fourth inning Friday against Atlanta starter Julio Teheran. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The stormy weather that ended Friday’s game here at Disney was appropriate because the day for the Red Sox featured the thunder and lightning of Mookie Betts and bleak results from Clay Buchholz in a 4-2 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.

Betts registered his first two walks of the spring in his first two plate appearances, swiped his first base, connected for his first homer that actually cleared the wall in his third appearance before being retired minutes before the rain halted the game at 3:28 p.m ET.

Betts is now hitting .487 (19-for-39) with a gaudy .923 slugging percentage and a .512 OBP in 13 games. Betts got an inside fastball from Julio Teheran in the fourth inning and laced a homer over the wall in left for his second homer of the spring, and his first that cleared a wall.

“I don’t look at it any different than any other day,” Betts said of his continued spring tear. “I just had to do a couple more things but it’s always nice to be able to do those things and be able to affect the game in many different ways. That’s kind of the way I look at it, being able to affect the game in different ways.

“I’m pretty comfortable. I’m not going to go out and stress or anything. I feel like the year of being able to play last year got me kind of comfortable this year. Now, I’m just going in and playing and I feel like I’m just settling in with the guys.”

“He seemingly is on-time all the time at the plate,” Farrell said afterward. “He’s never seen the guy before. Second pitch is a line drive base hit. He takes a lot of good pitches off the plate to stay in command of the count for the base on balls. Obviously, the two-run homer, he’s done it a few times where guys try to pound him in and he’s so quick in there that he’s capable of that. But it’s been very exciting to see. It hasn’t been against pitchers that might not be seen during the regular season at the major league level. He’s facing some of the better pitchers that are going to be pitching this season.”

Betts’ only miscue actually ended an inning as he misjudged a fly ball with the bases loaded and two outs. Phil Gosselin took a full swing at a Buchholz pitch but the ball didn’t carry. It was headed for the grass of shallow center when Betts broke back on the swing. But Betts used his speed and quickness to sprint forward and make a diving catch.

“Plays like that are rare,” Betts said of his play from center field. “Just to get one play like that I feel like I’ll be able to do something different next time and maybe the same thing happens but as long as I catch it, that’s the main thing.”

“Full swing, he’s reading the ball of the bat and he breaks back but he recovers,” Farrell said. “Maybe made the play a little bit more difficult than he needed to but an out’s an out.”

As for Buchholz, he had the roughest outing of the spring, ten days removed from his expected start on Opening Day in Philadelphia. The Red Sox starter threw 96 pitches against the Braves and allowed 12 hits and four runs over five-plus innings, getting pulled after Kelly Johnson launched a long homer to right-center off him to open the sixth.

“He gave a lot of hits,” Farrell said. “There’s a couple different ways you can look at it. One, he made some big pitches as he had men on base quite a bit today. I thought his stuff and the definition to his pitches, were better than the line score. Now, granted there were 12 hits on the board that he gave up. I thought he had a number of opportunities where he was ahead in the count where he could’ve done a better job of finishing hitters off, particularly expanding the strike zone down on top of the plate for some chase.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, A.J. Pierzynski, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox
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