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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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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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Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, john lackey, MLB
Saturday notes: The (neuro)science of building a World Series winner, Mookie Betts and a strong starting rotation at 12:25 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox continue to be on the leading edge of science and baseball.

Before the game against the Braves at Champion Stadium, Red Sox manager John Farrell detailed the team’s investment in the latest technology to scout and identify talent. It’s called neuroscience. And it’s a scientific method in which other teams in baseball – and other sports – are now investing a great deal of time and financial resources to identify and refine the talent pool available to them.

Want an example?

“Mookie Betts, that’s how he was identified. He was a bowler,” Farrell offered as a name that came immediately to mind. “It wasn’t like there were a whole lot of games to witness and watch but then there’s follow up work when guys come into the system at the minor league level to always to try to train and enhance that reactionary time. I think that would just continue to grow.

“Whether it helps focus and concentration and enhance all that, I just think that we’re scratching the surface on what kind of electronic tools can come into play to help players.”

Betts was drafted by the Red Sox in the 5th round of the 2011 MLB draft from John Overton High School in Brentwood, TN. He is a middle infielder in his fourth season in the system. Without neuroscience and neuro-scouting, Betts may have slipped through the system.

Farrell said neuroscience is used in many different ways, including having players use gaming consoles to test their reactions.

“Not so much on a daily basis, but it’s done on identifying players so there’s a neuro-scouting component to it,” Farrell said.

“Best way I could describe it in general, it helps with some of the processing of information because certain things will be presented to a player that they’ll have to identify certain things, whether that’s shapes, numbers, trends, and then how quickly you process it and repeat when it comes back up. It’s not different than some of the baseline testing for concussions, where you’ve got to really think back and remember different schematics that are thrown up in front of your eyes,” Farrell explained.

“Whether it gives an assessment on a player’s instincts, it’s more for his ability to process information and make decisions. When you’re dealing with reaction times that are in the split-seconds, you start to get a better understanding of what that person’s ability to make the right decision is. Whether that’s shows up on the base paths, the box, pitch recognition, all those things begin to measure the ability to process information and make decisions.”

The Red Sox have been at the leading edge of this type of evaluation for the better part of five years, starting with Theo Epstein‘s tenure in the late 2000s.

“It was starting to come into the organization around ’09 or ’10,” said Farrell, who was the pitching coach at the time. “This might be kind of where it started. I don’t know if other organizations have used it since then. When this was being brought into the game this is where it was being initiated.

“It’s like a consultant service. These people are certainly way beyond my thinking ability. I haven’t gone through and sat down and gone through some of the neuro-scouting that’s available.”

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Read More: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, MLB, mookie betts
Jon Lester says his contract talks are ‘headed in the right direction’ 03.21.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, spring training 2014
Jon Lester continues his dominant spring, A.J. Pierzynksi knocks in two as Red Sox tie Phils at 4:21 pm ET
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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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Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox, Jon Lester. Will Middlebrooks, MLB
Friday notes: John Farrell says Grady Sizemore ‘likely’ as his every day center fielder when ‘durability’ is on his side at 12:53 pm ET
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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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Read More: aroldis chapman, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, grady sizemore
Clay Buchholz sharp early, tires late against Yankees, but shoulder ‘feels fine’ 03.20.14 at 8:36 pm ET
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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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Read More: Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, MLB
Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford have latest on David Ortiz and starting rotation at 7:53 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford have the latest on the David Ortiz contract situation and his struggles in spring training and why the Red Sox aren’t overly concerned about either. Trags and Bradford also assess the Red Sox starting rotation heading into the season, which will be led by Jon Lester on opening day on March 31 in Baltimore. The pair also discuss the latest on Grady Sizemore, a long two-day trip to central Florida and the merits of Jonathan Herrera.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, grady sizemore, Mike Petraglia
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