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Felix Doubront, Edward Mujica, Jonathan Herrera among Venezuelans thinking of their brothers and sisters at home 02.24.14 at 1:22 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With unrest tearing apart their capital city thousands of miles and another hemisphere away, Red Sox players with ties to their homeland of Venezuela showed their solidarity Monday with protesters speaking out against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

There were barricades of pipes, trash and branches burning in the streets and the sound of banging of pots and pans in support of the protest movement against the country’s leader Monday. Traffic came to a halt in many parts of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, as opposition protesters continued their campaign of nearly two weeks to demand changes to address rampant crime, food shortages and few jobs.

The protest was not nearly as strong or stark in Fort Myers but six Venezuelan players in camp with the Red Sox all offered their support and sympathy. Manager John Farrell said he has been in touch with his players and offered support on behalf of the organization.

“Very [supportive] because we do have a good number of players that do come from Venezuela and the pitchers that we’ve already met with one-on-one,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to get a feel for if their families are affected by it. And it seems like those players hail from areas a little bit further away from the big cities, Caracas in particular. It’s unfortunate with what they’re having to deal with there but, again, we’re sympathetic. If there are ever any needs that we can help with, we’ll certainly take a look at those. But, it’s unfortunate their families have to contend with something that is completely out of their control.”

Two of those players figure prominently in the team’s pitching plans and were at work throwing live batting practice on Monday morning.

Felix Doubront and Edward Mujica were among the group of players that stood in solidarity with others Monday holding a Venezuelan flag.

“We care about the people in the streets right now,” Mujica said Monday. “It’s big support from major league players right now. The good thing is my family is safe right now. There is no one in the center of the city. We live in a little town away from the city. They’re safe right now but they’re just keeping an eye on it. I call my family every single day and see what’s going on and try to get some news.

“I live in Miami. All my family members came down to be with me. It’s dangerous and it’s crazy to go out there and put yourself in a bad situation but the thing is it has to be different so players can go there and play winter ball and be more safe. It’s unbelievable. I think everybody in Minnesota [camp in Fort Myers] feels the same thing, trying to support them.”

Infielder Jonathan Herrera is the only position player on the 40-man roster who hails from Venezuela.

“It’s not easy because you think about your family and you see the news and see everything happening over there,” Herrera said. “But you need to go practice and focus and be ready to play baseball. But at the same time you have in the back of your mind [whether] your family home safe so that’s kind of difficult.

“The things out in the street, every city is kind of dangerous right now. A lot of things happen in the streets so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Righthander Brayan Villarreal, left-hander Jose Mijares and infielder Heiker Meneses also call Venezuela home and are in camp as non-roster invitees. Meneses and Mijares hail from Caracas.

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Mike Petraglia, Alex Speier on Clay Buchholz 2014 expectations 02.23.14 at 5:03 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Alex Speier break down Day 7 of spring training for the 2014 Red Sox, highlighting the expectations of the injury prone Clay Buchholz. Petraglia and Speier discuss whether this could be a break out season in terms of durability for the 29-year-old righthander.

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John Farrell, Red Sox ‘very hopeful’ Clay Buchholz ‘lasts the entire season’ at 3:26 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz defines what it is to be a lean, mean pitching machine.

But the way the Red Sox see it, he needs to be sure he’s fueling that machine the right way.

The 29-year-old right-hander enters this season trying to prove to himself, the organization and fans that he can be a reliable go-to guy at the top of the rotation. Buchholz reports to camp again this year, looking in great shape with a 6-foot-3 frame filling out at roughly 190 pounds.

“I feel as normal as I’ve felt in a long time right now,” Buchholz said Sunday.

“When I was 21,22 coming into camp, I didn’t pick up a ball until I got here and I could go out there and throw as hard as I wanted to on Day 1. It’s a little bit different. I’m not going to say that I’m old by any means but being older, the wear and tear of playing a long season like last year and the previous years, it takes a pounding on your body to be able to bounce back and think that’s the part where you have to be more mature about what you do in the offseason and how you do it to put yourself in the best position.”

There’s no doubt he has the stuff but does he have the right conditioning?

“We’re very hopeful he lasts the entire season, and right now he’s in with every other pitcher in terms of his throwing days, his progression to batting practice today, and everything he dealt with from a physical standpoint last year he addressed in the offseason,” manager John Farrell said Sunday after Buchholz threw his first live batting practice of the spring. “His shoulder strength is very good, so we’re looking forward to another productive year from Clay.”

Buchholz is coming off a season that — when he pitched — he was nearly unhittable, finishing with a 12-1 record and a 1.74 ERA and a 1.025 WHIP, both of which would have led the majors, except for the fact that he was able to throw just 108 innings in 16 starts due to a number of ailments, including fatigue in his right shoulder.

“If the number of innings pitched this year are equivalent or anywhere close to the way he’s performed as we’ve come to know Clay, I’m not saying it has to be to the 1.7 ERA of a year ago, but this a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. For him to put in a 32-start year for us and be out there for an appropriate number of innings, he has a chance to make a huge impact on this team. I know he’s doing everything he can to do it, to accomplish that. I think he’s settled into a very good routine this spring so far. Given the challenges he’s had to face, he’s getting more aware of what his body’s needs are and really how to maintain the durability.”

So what’s the key?

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David Ortiz has special gift for Japanese NHK comedian Hironari Yamazaki at 2:38 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox slugger David Ortiz spent several minutes with NHK Japanese comedian Hironari Yamazaki after workouts Sunday at JetBlue Park and spoke the language of comedy and baseball fluently with his admiring guest.

With the comedian’s entourage looking on, Ortiz presented Yamazaki with the bat he used in workouts and batting practice Sunday as well as his batting gloves. Ortiz also let Yamazaki wear his gold necklace. But no, Yamazaki did not keep that, gracious giving the necklace right back.

Yamazaki is no Vladimir Putin.

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Why Dustin Pedroia is the key cog of Red Sox defense at 8:26 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia has seen a lot in his eight years with the Red Sox.

Two World Series titles, a Rookie of the Year honor in 2007, an MVP the next season, a collapse in 2011, a 69-win season in 2012 and a wondrous turnaround last year.

Through it all he’s had to get accustomed to a new dance partner at shortstop almost every year. Nine regular shortstops have formed the double play combination since Pedroia became the every day second baseman in 2007, starting with Julio Lugo.

With Stephen Drew out – for now – and Xander Bogaerts in to start spring training, it’s just another day in the life of the infielder.

“Well, regardless of the changes, Dustin’s role has remained the same,” John Farrell said. “He has been the leader of our team up the middle, whether it’s in term of positioning, whether it’s our cutoffs and relays, he’s the pivotal guy in all of that. These are players, with Jackie and Xander, they understand the position, they’ve been good defenders to this point and time in their career. Seeing it on a regular basis right now, that’s the only difference. We know that Jackie is an above-average defender in center fielder.”

Then Farrell conceded, without prompting, “The one thing that Dustin might talk about is trying to get some continuity long-term with a double play partner.”

“I think he’s dealt with it as best we could have ever hoped. He’s had good players play alongside of him. But let’s face it, the more repetition you get with a partner up the middle, you’re going to have a better read in the nuances and being able to anticipate things at a greater rate. We’re looking forward to establish that continuity going forward.”

Pedroia didn’t want to focus on the changes but rather the need to anchor the middle defense, like a middle linebacker in football. He’s the one calling the signals and it’s his job to get everyone on the same page, no matter who his double play partner might be.

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After surviving Tommy John twice, Chris Capuano excited about ‘coming home’ to Red Sox 02.22.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — For someone who has survived two Tommy John surgeries and the disappointment of being passed over by his hometown team in high school, lefty Chris Capuano finally got to put on a Red Sox uniform Saturday and talk about the real chance he’ll be on the club to start the 2014 season.

“I just hope to be a positive part of the clubhouse,” Capuano said. “It’s already great clubhouse dynamic with the kind of professionals they have in there. These guys, the way they go about their business and they’re so focused. I just want to add to that and hopefully be a positive part.”

Capuano starred both athletically and academically at Cathedral High School in West Springfield, where he was the valedictorian. He played in high school all-star game at Fenway but that remains the only time he has ever pitched on the hallowed ground.

“I played in this Massachusetts-Connecticut all-star game at Fenway,” he recalled Saturday. “I thought I did well. I ended up getting drafted by the Pirates in the late rounds out of high school but not enough to not make me want to go to Duke and get my education. I didn’t have a lot of contact with the Red Sox out of high school.”

Capuano, 35, signed a major league deal this week for a reported $2.25 million, with incentives that could make it worth as much as $5 million. John Farrell sees Capuano as a lefty who could throw an inning out of the bullpen in long relief or face a single batter, lefty or righty.

“I think with my repertoire, four-seam, two-seam fastballs, my changeup is one of my better offspeed pitches, which has a little down and a away movement to righties,” Capuano said. “I think as a lefty that enables me to feel comfortable to pitch to righthanders as well.”

Capuano was a free agent after the Dodgers chose not to bring him back. But he left no doubt Saturday in speaking to reporters where his first choice would be.

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Xander Bogaerts on Stephen Drew: ‘You hear about it every day’ at 9:24 am ET
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Xander Bogaerts is trying to show he belongs as the Red Sox everyday shortstop. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts is trying to show he belongs as the Red Sox everyday shortstop. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts can’t help but hear the whispers about Stephen Drew.

The 21-year-old phenom knows he can’t control whether Drew returns to the Red Sox sometime this spring. Bogaerts said Saturday all he can do is try to put his best foot forward and show the Red Sox that he’s ready to be their everyday shortstop.

“You hear it every day, especially you media guys talk about it a lot,” Bogaerts said. “It’s something you hear a lot but you can’t focus on that. You just have to focus on baseball and try to help the team.”

[Click here to listen to Xander Bogaerts speak Saturday about "trying to act like a grown person."]

Last spring, Bogaerts came to camp as the 20-year-old hot prospect who figured to start in the high minors after his appearance for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, splitting time in camp between third base and short. Twelve months later, he’s the future of the Red Sox middle infield.

“It’s good when you have to focus on one position. Last year was third and short so you had to get work at two positions but now, hopefully, I can get it at one.”

Even after showing he could handle the bright lights and big stage of the postseason and World Series last year – earning the starting job at third base in the playoffs – he speaks with the humility of a borderline talent just trying to make the roster.

“Last year, Drew was here so you know the chances were slim to none,” he said. “Hopefully, this year I can win the job. I was in camp but only one or two weeks and left for the WBC. This is actually my first spring training, I would say. Hopefully, I’ll be here till the end.

“I try to act like a grown person. I’m still 21. You just have to do things the right way, see the way veteran players go about their business, especially baseball-wise. Off the field, hopefully I don’t have problems. I don’t go out a lot, I don’t drink. So, that definitely helps you stay away from trouble.”

Bogaerts joked that he knows he’s the last stop on the merry-go-round that has been shortstop for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, something the second baseman reminded him of again on Friday.

“I heard that again but hopefully, I’m here to stay and here for a long time,” Bogaerts said.

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