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Mike Petraglia, Rob Bradford on Jacoby Ellsbury thanking John Farrell 02.28.14 at 2:57 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Rob Bradford discuss a special phone call Red Sox manager John Farrell received over the winter from Jacoby Ellsbury, how the Red Sox view the stolen base now and the health of Grady Sizemore.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, MLB, Rob Bradford, spring training 2014
Red Sox notebook Friday: Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava to play Saturday, Christian Vazquez takes ‘big step forward’ at 11:18 am ET
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Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston's next great catcher. (AP)

Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston’s next great catcher. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — All the reports on Grady Sizemore came back very positive Friday morning so his return to game action will continue on Saturday at Hammond Stadium against the Twins.

“Grady feels great,” manager John Farrell said. “He came out of yesterday’s three innings, two at-bats feeling good. I’m sure he was eager to get going. First time in a couple of years being in a live game but he has responded well.”

Sizemore, who missed all of 2012 and ’13 with back and knee injuries, flied out to center in his first at-bat in the first inning and flew out to left in the second inning. It was his first game action of any kind since Sept. 2011. Farrell said Sizemore will play center after playing left field on Thursday against Northeastern.

Another rehabbing outfielder will get his first taste of game action on Saturday when Daniel Nava returns from a neck ailment and plays left field. Nava missed some time early in camp after waking up one morning with stiffness and soreness in the back of his neck.

Christian Vazquez continues to impress the Red Sox with his offensive development. On Thursday, he homered over the Jet Blue Monster in left against Boston College. The ninth-round pick from 2008 has always had shown signs of power, hitting as many as 18 homers with Single-A Greenville in 2011, driving in 84 runs in 105 games and batting .283. He seemed to be on the fast track in 2012 when he batted .266 in 81 games for High-A Salem. But he dropped to .205 in 20 games with Double-A Portland to close out ’12.

Last year, mostly spent at Portland, he had a breakout season of sorts, batting .289 with a .376 OBP in 96 games.

“Big step forward last year. Improved average but I think more than anything, when you start to see the walks and strikeouts start to even out, I think that speaks to his confidence in the [batter's] box and be comfortable and remain calm in some of those two-strike situations. He’s an exciting-looking player and a solid step forward, offensively, last year.”

With a gun for an arm and very quick feet, his defensive skills have never been doubted from the moment he was drafted as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico. Farrell says Vazquez will take the next step in developing game-calling skills and handling a pitching staff.

“Those [skills] are evident,” Farrell said. “The game-calling are to hinge a lot on the strengths of the given pitcher on the mound and how familiar is he with that individual. There’s a good foundation already in place, and that starts from the time they’re in rookie ball and that building block is there. But what he has also shown is the ability to read some swings and use that to make some pitch selections. He’s on a very good path as far as the position is concerned, all phases.”

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Read More: anthony ranaudo, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, daniel nava
Red Sox video montage of highlights from sweep over Northeastern, Boston College at 8:19 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox opened their spring game schedule on Thursday with their annual college doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College. The Red Sox won a pair of 5-2 seven-inning games at JetBlue Park. Grady Sizemore started in Game 1 against NU and had two fly outs while Brandon Workman threw the first pitch of the spring. The Grapefruit League opener is set for 1:05 p.m. Friday at JetBlue Park against their crosstown foe, the Minnesota Twins.

Read More: Boston College, Boston Red Sox, Northeastern, Northeastern University
Travis Shaw (2-for-2), Garin Cecchini (2-for-3) lead Red Sox over Boston College 02.27.14 at 5:48 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Travis Shaw drilled a three-run double to break open a close game as the Red Sox completed a sweep of their college doubleheader with a 5-2 win over Boston College Thursday at JetBlue Park.

The Red Sox had to come from behind in the opener to escape with a 5-2 win over Northeastern as Grady Sizemore returned to game action for the first time since Sept. 2011. Both games were played in seven innings.

In the nightcap, Brandon Snyder’s ground rule double off BC starter Eric Stevens scored Brock Holt for a 1-0 Red Sox lead. Christian Vazquez homered over the JetBlue Monster in left in the fourth to put Boston up, 2-0.

Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts and Matty Johnson all singled to load the bases in the fifth. After Bryce Brentz struck out looking, Shaw, the son of former major league closer Jeff Shaw, doubled to deep right to open up the game and give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.

Those three runs would prove valuable as Boston College scored twice off Austin Maddox in the seventh before left fielder Kuery De La Cruz threw out Geoffrey Murphy at the plate to end the game.

Rubby De La Rosa started and got the win, allowing just one hit while striking out two in two innings of work. Matt Barnes followed up with a perfect third inning.

Read More: Boston College, Boston Red Sox, garin cecchini, Jeff Shaw
Red Sox score late, edge Northeastern, Grady Sizemore (2 flyouts) at 3:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Grady Sizemore flew out in his first two spring training at-bats while Brandon Workman threw a pair of scoreless innings to start the game as the Red Sox scored four in the bottom of the sixth to come from behind and beat Northeastern, 5-2, Thursday afternoon in the spring training opener at JetBlue Park.

“Everything felt good,” said Sizemore, who has battled back and knee injuries that had kept him out of baseball since 2011. “I didn’t feel like I was forcing anything, the body felt fine and I was happy with that.”

Sizemore was asked about making a push to make the team in camp.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “For me, it’s more of a physical thing, and just kind of getting back into baseball shape and getting conditioned. I think if I’m healthy and I continue to work hard, I’ll be in a good spot from a baseball skill standpoint.

“I’ve enjoyed everything, not just the games, everything. Just being here, getting the work. I appreciate all of it. I can’t wait to get back to the ball park. I’m enjoying everything.

“It’s a tough stretch to go through, especially when you’ve battle through this. You try to move forward and not dwell on the injuries and not look back. I’ll test it and see how it feels. I guess you’d expect to be a little bit more sore than normal and not to get too frustrated with that. If I come in feeling fine [Friday], then we know that I can continue to push it more, build up my innings and go from there.”

The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the fifth when Jonathan Herrera walked to open the inning, stole second and third before scoring on a Jayson Hernandez groundout.

Northeastern responded off Noe Ramirez in the sixth. Ramirez was replacing 37-year-old submariner Shunsuke Watanabe, after Watanabe pitched a scoreless fifth.

Northeastern’s James Hand doubled to left, scoring Shane Allen and Nick Fanneron and putting the Huskies on top, 2-1.

But the lead was short-lived as Shannon Wilkerson hit a ball to short with runners on second and third. The ball was misplayed by Keith Kelly allowing one run to score. The ball careened to center and was mishandled by center fielder Nick Fanneron allowing the go-ahead run to score. Two errors on the same play allowed the Red Sox to take the lead for good, 3-2. They would add two more on an RBI triple by Scott Cousins and an RBI groundout by Herrera.

Ramirez, despite giving up the two runs, earned the win.

Other notables:

  • Grady Sizemore flew out to center and left in his two at-bats in the first and third innings, respectively. He started in left field and batted leadoff.
  • Northeastern lefty James Mulry struck out Dustin Pedroia (looking) and David Ortiz (swinging) back to back in the third inning. “The kid can go out and celebrate tonight, I guess,” Ortiz said. “I guess he was watching what they tried on me in the World Series.”
  • Ryan Lavarnway doubled and singled and went 2-for-2 in his spring debut.
  • Read More: Boston Red Sox, Brandon Workman, henry owens, Northeastern University
    Will Middlebrooks is looking forward to ‘just going out to kick a guy’s ass every day’ at 2:06 pm ET
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    Will Middlebrooks is bringing extra focus to camp this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

    Will Middlebrooks is bringing extra focus to camp this spring. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

    FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the games finally begin, there’s no one with a bigger point to prove or bigger chip on his shoulder than Will Middlebrooks.

    He made that perfectly clear Thursday, before taking the field as the starting third baseman against Northeastern, batting seventh.

    “Night and day,” Middlebrooks told WEEI.com of his feeling this spring compared to 12 months ago. “It’s night and day. It’s just a matter of competing and believing in my own ability and knowing what I’m capable of and just going out and not thinking about the details and just going out to kick a guy’s ass every day.”

    It’s not just the extra 15 to 20 pounds of muscle he’s put on during a vigorous offseason workout program. Middlebrooks has shown his manager that he’s mentally ready to put 2013 behind him.

    “To date, his spring has been productive,” Farrell said. “His work has been outstanding. He’s come in with a noticeable determination and yet, at the same time, he’s doing everything we could’ve expected, in terms of everybody.”

    “It’s evident by the work he did in the offseason to add some strength and I’m looking forward to seeing him playing on the field.”

    As Alex Speier documented, 2013 was a nightmare for Middlebrooks, hitting just .227 in 94 games and suffering through a lower back strain that landed him on the disabled list. It got so bad early on that he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for 45 games where he worked to get his swing – and head – right before returning to help the Red Sox down the stretch. All of this after a rookie season in 2012, when he hit 15 homers and drove in 54 runs in 75 games.

    “You could point to a number of examples where the second year has been a little bit more challenging and that’s just a matter of the league getting to know the strengths and limitations for a given player, and pitching to it accordingly,” Farrell said. “Will’s very well aware of how pitchers and opponents have attacked him, and that’s just a process of establishing yourself year after year in the big leagues.”

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    Read More: Boston Red Sox, spring training 2014, Will Middlebrooks,
    Red Sox notebook: John Farrell playing it safe with Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, and a Jonathan Herrera experiment at 11:30 am ET
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    Pedro Martinez was a close observer of Koji Uehara and Junicha Tazawa in camp. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

    Pedro Martinez was a close observer of Koji Uehara and Junicha Tazawa in camp. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

    FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox are making no apologies for playing it safe with some of their aging veterans as they enter camp as World Series champs.

    Manager John Farrell announced Thursday before the team’s college doubleheader with Northeastern and Boston College that Shane Victorino is easing his way back into full baseball activities after his legs needed some extra rest after early work in camp.

    “Shane continues to address some of the things we discovered in those legs,” Farrell said. “I want to be clear, his first two days of work coming in were extremely good. But then we saw some needs and we’re addressing those right now. He continues to throw and is doing some running and we’re just addressing the overall core strength.”

    Farrell said there’s no firm schedule for when Victorino might be ready to get into spring games.

    “Not yet. He’s going to be out there when he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “We know this from Shane, he’s going to want to get out there maybe before we might want to put him in games. There’s no reason to think that he’s not going to be ready for opening day. That’s not in our concern right now.”

    In addition to surgery on his thumb in December, Victorino battled hamstring, groin and hip issues throughout last season. The Red Sox are trying to be proactive this spring to make sure those ailments don’t recur often.

    Farrell also indicated Thursday that, despite the proclamation of Pedro Martinez on Wednesday, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara will be held out for about the first week of games in camp as they get their work in on the side and the back fields. The reason? Simple, both were used in many high leverage postseason situations for a full extra month of baseball last year.

    “He and Junichi, they’ll get in games probably around the third-way through the game schedule mark,” Farrell said. “There’s nothing that says otherwise why we’re holding them back. They’re throwing the ball extremely well right now but we’re just trying to balance out the number of appearances last year, as well.”

    As for Martinez saying Uehara, at 38, looks like he could already be pitching in regular season games, Farrell said there’s reasons for that.

    “One they’re durable. Two, their work ethic in the offseason shows up when they first come into camp and the way they’re able to throw bullpens with shorter rest, so their recovery time has been great. But we still have to balance what they went through last year with a full month of additional pitching,” Farrell said.

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    Read More: Boston Red Sox, Jonathan Herrera, junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara
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