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John Farrell: Jarrod Saltalamacchia ‘would be our lead catcher right now’ 02.19.13 at 2:27 pm ET
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David Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will form the Red Sox catching tandem this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The way Red Sox manager John Farrell looks at his catching situation, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross is not a platoon situation. It’s much better.

Still, Farrell made it clear on Tuesday, two days before the Red Sox begin playing games, that Saltalamacchia is still his choice as the No. 1 catcher on the roster, with Ross providing a very capable back-up.

There has been some talk this spring that a platoon could develop with the pair, as the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia has 50 of his 64 career home runs from the left-handed side of the plate.

“The majority of his home runs came left-handed and again, I want to be careful, I’m not outlining a platoon,” Farrell said. “Salty would be our lead catcher right now. But we know that we have a very capable No. 2 guy, and I think the one thing we’ve always viewed the catching position as a two-man situation, knowing that there’s a lead guy, and that would be Salty.

“We’re fortunate to have the flexibility in the addition of Ross but I can’t see a drastic rededuction in the number of at-bats from Salty.”

Ross, meanwhile, has 54 of his 84 career homers against left-handed pitching. As for the catching duties and comfort levels between the pitchers and the Red Sox catching duo, Farrell will let that play itself out over the spring and into the season.

“I haven’t gotten to the point where he’s going to handle one guy in the five, every five-day rotation. There’ll be a natural break to it, day game after a night game. Certainly, that will come into play but if there are favorable match-ups, we’ll certainly take advantage of that.

“The one thing we knew going into this year is that David is more capable than a traditional back-up catcher, where it’s 35, 40 games. There’s more there. There isn’t a number of games earmarked or ‘X’ number of a games per week.”

“We’ll see how that unfolds, if certain guys work better because of rapport. The one thing I don’t want to create is [reliance on a single catcher]. We want all our pitchers to throw to both catchers, and don’t want that to be a reason as to not go out and perform to the best of their abilities. So, we’ll see how that unfolds and the rapport that is generated.”

Farrell made it very clear he plans to communicate frequently with his catchers to keep both fresh over the course of 162 games. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Lackey starts Saturday, Jon Lester Sunday, Alfredo Aceves Monday at 9:34 am ET
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John Lackey starts the official Grapefruit League opener for the Red Sox on Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey will make his first start of the spring on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park. Lackey, who will throw just the first inning, will be followed by Drake Britton, Pedro Beato, Anthony Carter, Jose De La Torre, Oscar Villarreal, Alex Wilson and knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Jon Lester will follow up on Sunday by getting his first Grapefruit League start against the Cardinals in Jupiter. After Lester, Red Sox fans can get their first look at Rubby De La Rosa, followed by Junichi Tazawa, Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller and Koji Uehara.

Alfredo Aceves will get his first start of the spring on Monday in a split-squad game against the Rays in Port Charlotte. After Aceves it will be Chris Hernandez, Daniel Bard, Clayton Mortensen (for two innings), Villareal and Wilson.

Meanwhile, in Dunedin at the same time, it will be Wright, Allen Webster, Terry Doyle (two innings), De La Torre, Beato, Carpenter and Carter.

Before the official Grapefruit League games, the Red Sox open with their traditional seven-inning games against Northeastern and Boston College.

Hanrahan will start Thursday’s 1:35 game at JetBlue against Northeastern, followed by Bard, Miller, Wilson Mortensen (two innings), Beato and Carter. Against Boston College at 4 p.m., Doyle (a BC product) will get a pair of innings against his alma mater. Uehara will start followed by Bailey, Villarreal, Doyle, De La Torre and Tazawa.

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

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Pedro Martinez unplugged: ‘I’m hoping to become’ Johnny Pesky 02.18.13 at 6:22 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez (left) works with Daniel Bard on mechanics. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In an epic session with reporters Monday afternoon that lasted 23 minutes, 14 seconds, Pedro Martinez provided a glimpse into his personality that defined a legendary career and offered rare insight as to why one of the greatest Red Sox pitchers of all time decided the time was right to rejoin the Red Sox as a pitching consultant.

Toward the end of the session, he admitted that his goal, his main objective with the organization is not to become a pitching coach or manager but rather a character and ambassador like the late, great Johnny Pesky.

“Johnny Pesky, I remember Johnny Pesky hitting fungos in my first year here,” Martinez said of his first year in 1998. “I saw him in his last days. I’m extremely proud to have seen Johnny Pesky. I’m hoping to become someone like that.”

He joked that he also might be a lot like Luis Tiant, who was making the rounds Monday on the practice fields outside JetBlue Park.

“Probably, when I’m an old goat and running around,” Martinez said. “I probably won’t have the goatee. I’ll be around like Jim Rice, like El Tiante, Johnny Pesky.”

One thing he assured everyone, he will not be making an Andy Pettitte-like comeback in mid-season.

“No, not at all, not to play. Coming back to see the Sox in first place? Maybe,” Martinez said. “No chance [of pitching]. I just don’t think so. I did what I was supposed to do and that’s it.

“I hope to add some knowledge, any help I can to the staff in every aspect. Could be mechanically, could be in the field, could be off the field, could be mentally, which I know a lot. I know about going through struggles what we go through in the middle of the season, especially after the first half. So, I can relate to them a lot and actually get them going, hopefully and they can come and ask questions and I’ll be more than willing to answer.

“It’s weird but it feels like the first day to me. I get so excited to be a part of this team and be part of the tradition we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I actually a little funny about putting pair of [uniform] pants on again. In shorts, it’s different. In regular pants like a player.”

Pedro was in uniform, at least gray pants and sweater top.

“Same size, same everything, even though I’m a little heavier,” he said.

Here is the rest of Pedro’s classic and wide-ranging address to reporters:

On the Red Sox letting him go after the 2004 World Series run: “I never held it against them because you have to understand that baseball has a dark side and it’s the negotiations. Every time you’re exposed to arbitration cases and all that, you realize there’s a business part of baseball that forces you to look for a negative about the player and the player actually tries to prove to the team that you’re worth whatever you’re asking. But money makes it all difficult. All that love for one day goes away. Once we settle and we reach agreement, it’s love again. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pedro Martinez on Felix Doubront: ‘You have to hold him accountable’ at 2:47 pm ET
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Pedro Martinez is ready to set Felix Doubront straight on conditioning. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pedro Martinez is a lot of things to a lot people in baseball.

One of the greatest right-handed pitchers of all time. One of the most fearsome competitors ever to take the mound. One of the most genuine personalities in the game.

But to Felix Doubront, Martinez would just like to be the teacher that sets the young lefty on the right track in baseball. Martinez, now a pitching consultant to the Red Sox organization, made that abundantly clear Monday at the Red Sox spring training complex.

Martinez is well aware that Doubront, for the second time in three years, has reported to camp out of shape and was held back due to shoulder fatigue at the start of camp. Martinez plans to get in the ear – and mind – of the 25-year-old Venezuelan lefty, reminding him of the opportunity in front of him as a potential long-term starter in the Red Sox rotation.

“He’s so young and so full of talent that sometimes we take for granted the opportunity we’re given but the same way it comes, the same way it could go,” Martinez said of the lefty, who went 5-2 in his first 10 starts last season before falling off drastically in the final four months. “All it takes is a bad injury and you’re out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work. I believe he just doesn’t know and hasn’t been taught that he’s going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks, and that this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility on top of his shoulder with the whole Boston community and the team.”

It was forearm strain that held him back in 2011. It was a knee injury in 2012. And this spring it’s shoulder fatigue.

“I think he’s so young,” Martinez said. “Nowadays, these pitchers come up so young and so talented that they don’t realize how much they’re going to be counted on. And I think Doubront is a good example. I think he needs to know that he’s really important to this team, this organization, to the community, to Boston, that they’re counting on him to be one of the big names. At the same time, he’s just a young kid trying to develop and he’s already in the big leagues trying to perform. And you have to take that into consideration and be patient with him and at the same time, try to guide him through it. I think I can be a good axis to him to learn about some of the things he has to do.”

What exactly is the message Martinez plans to impart to Doubront?

“Bsaseball is not easy,” Martinez answered. “It wasn’t easy for me. He has to expect it to be tough. One thing I’m going to be with him, just as I was with [media], I’m going to be straightforward. I’m going to say the way it is, point-blank the way it is. If he wants to hear it or if he doesn’t, it’s okay. I just know I want the best for him and I want the best for the organization and I would love to help him. I can’t handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and not give it away. I would love to give it away and I hope he sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication and will to do things.

“Being out of shape a little bit is normal, probably not as much as before, but being out of shape a little bit in spring training, this is the only place where you can be a little bit out of shape but you’re here to get in shape. He has plenty of time to get in shape. I think he’s going to do it right. I think if he does put emphasis on the things he’s going to do, he’s going to do it exactly the way he should. I wouldn’t panic that much on that but at the same time, you have to hold him accountable to go and do his work every day.”

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Steven Wright: R.A. Dickey ‘re-wrote the book’ on the knuckleball’ 02.17.13 at 8:52 pm ET
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R.A. Dickey has been an inspiration for Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When 38-year-old R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young award last year in the National League, it was revolutionary on many fronts. A pitcher salvaged his career with a pitch still thought by many to be a gimmick pitch.

Dickey went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the Mets, and after being traded to the Blue Jays in a package that sent a pair of top prospects to New York, he received a two-year, $25 million extension for 2014 and 2015 on top of his current contract.

Red Sox right-hander Steven Wright was paying very close attention. He knew that Dickey was on the fringe of his major league career before he started throwing his knuckleball harder, with the same arm velocity as his fastball.

“I think he just re-wrote the book on it, to be honest with you, because what he did last year was unbelievable, for any pitcher,” said Wright on Sunday. “The fact that he did it with a knuckleball I think shows you can compete at a high level with the best of the best with a knuckleball. The harder knuckleball is easier to control in a sense because the movement is not as big. He’s just re-writing history as far as the way people look at the knuckleball.

“I think eveyrone thinks they have a knuckleball. I think more teams are going to be open to letting guys try it, I really do. I think that somebody like myself, I was able to compete with my other stuff but I never really had an out pitch. I think if a guy gets to that point, I think teams are going to be like, ‘Okay, let’s see what you’ve got,’ and maybe give him a little more time than previous to R.A.”

Wright was a 2006 draft pick of Cleveland out of the University of Hawaii who could throw 94 MPH. In 2011, with the help of Tom Candiotti and advice of Charlie Hough, Wright added the knuckleball to his repertoire, pitching at both levels of Class A, as well as Double-A and Triple-A. The results were mostly mixed, going 4-8 with a 4.58 ERA.

“That’s why I was getting frustrated,” the 28-year-old Wright said. “I have one good outing then I have one bad outing and I was like, ‘I’m going to throw fastballs and I’m going to throw my knuckleball off of that and adjust from there,’ instead of just flush, throwing hard and try to throw a pitch at 60 miles an hour.

“I’ve been throwing it since I was nine years old. So, it was one of those things I knew how to throw it. So, when I talk to Candiotti and Hough, they were telling me you just have to go with whatever feels good in your hands. So, I would just close my eyes and was like, ‘That’s what it is and that’s my grip.’ But I didn’t really get to understand it until I started working with Charlie Hough. Once I worked with Charlie Hough, he helped me simplify the pitch because it’s not as complex as I thought it was going to be. You just have to have your checkpoints and once you have your checkpoints, you stick with them so you can repeat them so that if something goes wrong, you just go back to what your checkpoints are.”

Last season was a breakthrough. He went 10-6 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A before being dealt to Boston for Lars Anderson. He initially joined the Double-A Portland team before being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four starts. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell notes: Mike Napoli ‘very soft hands,’ will be ‘very good first baseman’ at 5:02 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Napoli took grounders at first base for the first time in a Red Sox uniform Sunday and the early reports are very promising, on his hips and his hands.

“He took ground balls after BP today so we’ll gradually build that up,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ” Fifty ground balls at first base. He’s got very soft hands. Even when you watch him take BP, his movements are smooth. We’re confident he’s going to be a very good first baseman.

There’s something else Napoli can provide, a catcher’s perspective on the American League, having caught with the Angels and Rangers. He’ll be able to contribute to conversations with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. How much?

“As he switches to first base fulltime, some of that remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “But he’s not going to look past his own personal history with the league. And I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of conversation between he, David and Salty just to share their experiences to come to some commonality that we also would have through our advance reports. But as far as funneling that from the adrenaline rush of leading a pitcher through a given game, that remains to be seen, how that’ll play out on the field.”

Then there’s Ross.

“An encouraging catcher, and encouraging from the standpoint encouraging the pitcher,” Farrell said. “Just talking to the guys that have thrown to him, there’s such positive feedback on the interactions they’ve had, either after a bullpen or while they’re actually throwing their pen, just on David’s comments in between pitches. He engages every guy he catches and I think that pitchers feel that connection and they feel the support from him, and that’s one of the things that makes him so valuable to get the most out of a given pitcher.

“That goes back to his game-calling ability. Not only is he smart in reading swings and getting a feel of a guy in the batter’s box when he’s trying to make an adjustment, but he speaks with confidence to the pitcher. And I think anytime that a pitcher hears that, as Ross speaks with that kind of conviction, they feel it and trust a pitch that is called in a given moment.”

Farrell said Ross can have a big impact, even on the days he doesn’t catch.

“As he builds a rapport with each pitcher, yes,” Farrell said. “It’s not to step over Salty or whoever else he might be with, it’s to know that his intentions are from the right spot and he cares about the guy on the mound, and you sense that.”

On Stephen Drew and comparisons to brother J.D. Drew: “A lot more talkative than J.D. That there seems to be no ill-effect from the ankle injury, through his ground ball work, the team defense that we’ve run through so far. He’s very particular in just looking for feedback, whether it’s in between rounds of BP, to the way the ball carries across an infield, trying to generate the exact rotation and backspin on throws to keep them true. He’s pretty meticulous in his work.”

On the bizarre lob-toss of Alfredo Aceves during live BP to Jonny Gomes and Saltalamacchia: “His session on the mound didn’t go as intended. He’s healthy and it’s been addressed.” WEEI.com’s Alex Speier has an in-depth look into the incident.

On Ryan Dempster: “A very consistent and professional approach. He’s a competitive guy, even in those games where things might not go well in the early innings, he finds a way to get through the middle or latter part of the game to keep some of the pressure off the bullpen on a given night. There’s a long history of big inning totals in given years and we’re looking for more of the same, to provide that leadership by example, more than anything.

“I think we’d sign up today for four guys who would give us 200-plus innings but it’s a consistent point for us to begin a game every night for that starting pitcher to control the tempo in the game into those later innings, and it sets us up for a chance to win on a consistent basis.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Ben Cherington: Conditioning is ‘something we’ve talked to [Felix Doubront] about’ 02.16.13 at 6:39 pm ET
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Felix Doubront (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The moment of truth might finally be here for Felix Doubront.

Based on his performance in 2012, the left-hander entered spring training as a member of the rotation upon whom the Red Sox planned to rely. But the question hanging over the 25-year-old Venezuelan is: can he stay healthy?

In a three-season career with the Red Sox, Doubront has a 17–19 record with a 4.57 ERA and a 3.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio (228-to-72) in 271 2/3 innings.

Two seasons ago, after promising glimpses as a starter and reliever in the big leagues in 2010, Doubront’s growth was stunted when he reported to camp out of shape prior to the 2011 season. He subsequently came up with forearm tightness in his throwing arm at the start of camp, the first of a succession of injuries — arm, groin, hamstring — that left him in Triple-A for most of the season and rendered his contributions to the big league team minimal.

A minor knee injury slowed him briefly during the 2012 campaign. Still, Doubront entered last season as a starter and started strong, beating out Aaron Cook and Alfredo Aceves in spring training. With Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester getting off to relatively slow starts, and Daniel Bard being demoted to the minors Doubront got off to a good start, going 5-2 in his first 10 starts.

There have been glimpses of greatness. Last June, Doubront took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins. He finished the game giving up two runs on three hits and earned a win. He ended the season with a positive first year having a full time starting job, with a record of 11-10 and more than a strikeout per inning.

Now, Doubront is being held back because of shoulder fatigue.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington stopped short of calling out the pitcher for reporting to camp out of shape Saturday, lumping him in with the rehabbing Craig Breslow and Buchholz. All three took part in pitchers’ fielding drills Saturday.

“I think we’re kind of taking advantage of a longer spring training to go slow, and I guess you could say the same with Buchholz and Breslow,” Cherington said. “Guys that are moving a little bit slower out of the gate. I think if the opening day clock was coming on us quicker, you’d probably see them further advanced in their schedules by now. All three of those guys are feeling good and on a schedule now. Felix should be off the mound some time this coming week. So he’s got plenty of time.” Read the rest of this entry »

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