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Kelly gets shelled in Arizona Fall League start 10.26.10 at 2:00 am ET
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Top Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly was hit hard in his Monday outing in the Arizona Fall League, allowing eight runs on eight hits in just two innings of work for the Peoria Javelinas. Kelly struck out two, walked one and allowed a homer. Kelly threw 46 pitches, 28 for strikes.

The outing represented a dramatic departure for Kelly, who had excelled in his first two AFL outings. Prior to Monday, he’d allowed three runs (one earned) in nine innings while allowing six hits, walking two and striking out six.

Despite the tough outing, Kelly sounded an upbeat note on his twitter page.

“Its games like these that make you a better player. Adversity is a great thing really shows what kinda player you are,” he wrote.

Kelly is expected to throw 15-20 innings in the AFL in order to make up the innings that he missed at the end of his season with Double-A Portland due to a strained lat muscle.

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Kelly, Iglesias and other Sox prospects set to start Arizona Fall League 10.12.10 at 1:14 pm ET
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The Arizona Fall League, a training ground for top prospects, opens on Tuesday, and the Red Sox will feature eight players on the Peoria Javelias, including a few of their top prospects. Both Casey Kelly and Jose Iglesias will play in the AFL for the second straight season, primarily in order to make up some of the time that each missed due to injury this year.

Kelly threw 95 innings for Double-A Portland after being shut down late in the Eastern League season with a strained lat. After taking part in the AFL as a position player last year in the AFL, he will conclude his first full year as a pitcher by throwing 15-20 innings in Arizona. He will make his first start on Wednesday.

Iglesias missed almost two months due to a broken index finger that limited him to 57 games with Portland. After dazzling in spring training, he hit .285/.315/.357/.672 for Portland (and .350/.458/.500/.958 in a 13-game rehab assignment in Lowell). While the Sox view him as a shortstop, he will play both short and third base in the AFL, owing to the fact that he was not designated the “priority” AFL roster member by the Sox. As such, he is required to play multiple positions. Iglesias spent part of the just-completed Florida Instructional League working out at third to prepare for the stint.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway is also on the Peoria roster, after a year in which he vaulted himself into prospect status by hitting .288/.393/.489/.882 with 22 homers and 102 RBI while splitting time between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. While the Sox raved about the defensive strides that he made behind the plate, Lavarnway caught in just 53 of the 126 games he played this year, and so the opportunity to spend more time behind the dish was a major factor in the team’s desire to send the Yale product to Arizona.

Other Sox minor leaguers taking part in the AFL are:

Seth Garrison: The right-hander was 1-1 with a 4.28 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings spanning 13 appearances for Salem after missing the first half of the season with an elbow injury. Prior to the injury, he had a strong showing in Salem in 2009, going 8-11 with a 3.90 ERA in 25 starts, and a 2.99 ERA from June through the end of the year.

Eammon Portice: A right-hander who was converted to the bullpen this year, Portice had a 3-7 record and 4.65 ERA for Double-A Portland, but he struck out more than a batter an inning (96 punchouts in 93 innings) while walking just 25. He is Rule 5 eligible this coming offseason, so a strong performance in the AFL could make him a consideration for the 40-man roster.

Jason Rice: Like Portice, Rice spent the year in the Portland bullpen, going 3-2 with a 2.85 ERA and striking out 71 (while walking 30) in 60 innings. Opponents hit just .211 against him. The 24-year-old was selected from the White Sox in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2008. He is Rule 5 eligible this offseason.

Daniel Turpen: Turpen was the pitcher whom the Red Sox acquired from the Giants in exchange for Ramon Ramirez at the trade deadline. The right-handed reliever made a dozen appearances with the Sea Dogs, forging a 4.91 ERA while striking out nearly a batter an inning (18 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings) and walking nine.

Juan Carlos Linares: The 26-year-old outfielder, who defected from Cuba, was signed by the Sox this year. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he showed a mix of power and patience as well as defensive skill in Cuba. He hit .239/.271/.391/.662 in 13 games with Portland this year.

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Mirror, mirror: Lars Anderson’s view of Casey Kelly 09.25.10 at 11:27 am ET
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NEW YORK — Their time as teammates was brief, yet fascinating.

Lars Anderson and Casey Kelly occupied the same clubhouse for only short spells during the 2010 season. The two were both in the Sox’ big league clubhouse during spring training; both were relocated to the minor league complex on the same day; and the two spent all of 17 games together with the Portland Sea Dogs before Anderson’s tremendous start led to a quick promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Yet while they only played together through April, the experience was a particularly intriguing one for Anderson. In 2009, Anderson had been the sure-thing prospect whose every move generated tremendous attention and scrutiny. He was named the top Red Sox prospect and indeed one of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball, creating immense expectations that ultimately proved, at times, overwhelming for him.

As a 21-year-old, Anderson found himself at times ill-equipped to handle everything that had been thrown at him. He ended the year hitting .233 with a .673 OPS, and then had to endure the widespread perception that his year was a disappointment.

One year later, while he was decimating the Double-A competition, he had the opportunity to see Kelly go through a similar experience to what he encountered. The prospect spotlight had redirected from Anderson to Kelly, the can’t-miss pitching prospect who — following an outstanding spring — was expected to dominate Double-A and push his way up the ladder, perhaps positioning himself for a big league callup before the end of the season.

For Anderson, the opportunity to examine the prospect machine as an outsider — rather than in the belly of the beast — was meaningful, particularly because he could serve as a sounding board for the 20-year-old phenom.

“It was interesting to watch. It was also kind of nice to be able to talk to him about it. He’€™s an awesome dude and a good player. You want him to be comfortable,” said Anderson. “I could just feel for him a little bit. For me it wasn’€™t the most comfortable setting. He had some similar frustrations. He handled it a lot better than I did, I thought. I know that he shared some of the feelings that I had. I could totally relate. We hung out a lot.”

There was no specific message that Anderson had for his teammate. The two were simply able to identify with the experiences of each other, things as mundane as the oddity of the autograph demands that had been thrust upon them.

‘€œWe all have our own ways of processing, learning and experiencing. There is no right and wrong to it, I don’€™t think. I just think he probably suffered less than I did. I made myself suffer a lot,’€ said Anderson. ‘€œBut [Kelly] was more mature with it than I was, which was nice to see.’€

Statistically, Kelly ‘€“ like Anderson in 2009 ‘€“ endured a year of struggle that failed to match the hype. The young right-hander, in his first full season as a pitcher, went 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 95 innings.

Anderson did not see that part of the season. While he and Kelly were teammates, the pitcher forged a solid 3.38 ERA in his first four outings. At that point, he was still being held to a strict pitch count.

Even so, some of the outings during their time as teammates were better than others. And in that, Anderson had an opportunity to observe what many in the organization have described as the startling maturity of Kelly in dealing with success and adversity.

‘€œYou know what impressed me about him? He was really detached from all the numbers stuff. Good start or bad start, he was even-keeled,’€ said Anderson. ‘€œAs far as how his outings went, he was over it, good or bad, pretty quickly, which is a huge thing.’€

That is a lesson that has been part of Anderson’€™s maturation in 2010, in which he is able to isolate negative results rather than letting them carry over and snowball. It is part of what positioned him to get his first taste of the big leagues this year, and that still may help Kelly to follow that path in the not-too-distant future.

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Sox shut down prospect Kelly for Double-A season 08.17.10 at 9:40 pm ET
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The Red Sox will shut down prospect Casey Kelly for the duration of the 2010 Portland Sea Dogs season due to a strained right latissimus muscle that the 21-year-old suffered, said farm director Mike Hazen. News of the decision was first reported by the Portland Press-Herald.

Kelly was 3-5 with a 5.31 in 21 starts for the Sea Dogs. The 2008 first-rounder was in the middle of his first full season as a pitcher since turning pro. In his most recent start, on Aug. 6 against Richmond, he touched 96 mph on the radar gun, the best velocity readings that he’s had this year and evidence that his arm is fine and that he’s done an impressive job of maintaining his strength over the course of his first full professional season. But the next day, he experienced stiffness that forced him to miss a side as well as his next start, and when the discomfort continued to linger, the Sox decided to end Kelly’s Double-A season, with an eye toward making up innings later this year.

The decision to shut him down was deemed precautionary, rather than a sign of a major injury. Because the Sea Dogs are nearing the end of the season, the Sox felt that it did not make sense for Kelly to rush through his rehab in order to make just one or two more starts in Double-A, followed by a month of throwing sides before having him complete his innings load for the year in Instructional League.

Following such a course would have meant that Kelly would have seven and a half months (dating to spring training) of pitching more or less continuously. The Sox elected instead to have Kelly stop pitching for the next month and then return to the mound in Instructional League, with the idea that he can get roughly 20-30 additional innings on the mound in games both there and in a winter league (likely the Arizona Fall League).

“As young as he is, we’€™re not going to risk anything. He definitely gets it, which is good,” said Hazen. “The choice was fairly simple. Shut him down and shoot to make up the innings when we can give him a month off right now. … If he’€™s doing well, progress him out and then make up those innings in instructional league and the beginning part of the Fall League so we can shut him down as soon as possible.”

Kelly is generally viewed as the top prospect in the Red Sox system, and so his numbers have struck some as disappointing. His walks total more than doubled, from 16 in 95 innings in 2009 to 35 in the same number of innings in 2010.

Yet the fact that he has been competing at a high level (Kelly is one of the youngest handful of pitchers in the Double-A Eastern League), along with a dramatic improvement in stuff, have convinced the Sox that he has made major strides forward this year. The fact that Kelly has struggled at times with his command (both in and out of the strike zone), the Sox suggest, could be attributable to the adjustment to a new, stronger pitcher’s build, as he’s added more than 20 pounds of muscle and an inch or two of height since turning pro. His fastball velocity has gone from the 89-91 range to consistently 92-94 this year, and his curveball has become a more powerful pitch as well.

“I know a lot of people look at the numbers and sort of scratch their heads,” said Hazen. “We’€™ve seen some of the best stuff we’€™ve ever seen out of this guy. Last year, he was a pretty good pitcher with average stuff. That’€™s the way I’€™d probably describe it. He was carving up younger kids with average stuff. Guys can do that. This year, we’€™re seeing plus stuff across the board. We’€™re seeing plus-plus fastball velocity, we’€™re seeing a plus breaking ball and we’€™re seeing a plus changeup.

“I know all the pieces haven’€™t been put together yet to where we’€™re looking at six scoreless with 10 punchouts every game. But that’€™s a pipe dream. That’€™s not going to happen right away. It’€™s just not going to come together that quickly. It’€™s going to take time for him to log innings. He has 200 professional innings under his belt. That’€™s nothing. It’€™s hard to keep saying that when people constantly look at the numbers. It’€™s not just about the age. It’€™s about the stuff that we’€™re seeing. As smart and intelligent as he is, with the stuff, the repeatability of his delivery, this guy, we know is going to be pretty good.”

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What’s New with the Red Sox: Friday 03.06.10 at 6:52 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts.

Groundhog Day seemingly characterizes the start of the Grapefruit League schedule, not only because the unseasonable chill persists in Florida, but also due to the fact that the Red Sox and Twins keep playing one another. The Fort Myers-based combatants played for the second of three straight days on Friday, though the Twins offered evidence that, after losing the first contest of the best-of-five Mayor’s Cup on Thursday, they mean business.

Minnesota featured a stacked lineup that included Denard Span, Orlando Hudson, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome, Delmon Young and J.J. Hardy.

“I remember a long, long time ago when the Twins teams you used to see had all these big old horses walking up there in those big powder-blue uniforms,” Gardenhire said. “I was watching today all these big backs walking up to home plate going, ‘Wow, this is kind of like old school back in the day when I was playing against them in instructional league.’ Hopefully, that will be the case.”

That lineup jumped on Jon Lester for four runs in one inning, on a day when the left-hander struggled a bit with his control, throwing 16 of 33 pitches for strikes. Lester, however, said that he was just barely missing wide of his target, rather than bouncing pitches or throwing them off the backstop, and the fact that he felt physically good in his first start of the exhibition season allowed him to feel at peace with his outing.

Lester’s outing was not the most significant of the day, however. His performance was overshadowed by those of other pitchers. The details:

Tim Wakefield had a strong first outing of the spring, tossing a pair of shutout inning while allowing only one infield hit. The 43-year-old has shown thus far that he has no physical restrictions after undergoing lower back surgery to repair a bulging disc following the end of the season. As of now, he remains on a normal schedule, with his next start slated to take place on Tuesday.

Mike Lowell suggested to manager Terry Francona that he is feeling good, and would like to get in a game as soon as next Wednesday. Francona said that it was more likely that the team would wait until it returned from a trip to Florida’s East Coast before putting Lowell in a game, perhaps as soon as next Sat., March 13. Even so, the manager took it as a good sign that the corner infielder is pushing for expanded activity.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had what he and pitching coach John Farrell deemed an encouraging first bullpen session of the spring. Matsuzaka threw 58 pitches, with his catcher moving from a standing position to an intermediate squat and then finally to a crouch for the last 12 pitches. Farrell said that Matsuzaka, whose spring schedule was slowed by a mild mid-upper back strain at the start of spring training, is making steady progress, and shows the core strength to maintain a consistent delivery, something that was an issue last year. Matsuzaka — who will throw his next bullpen session on Sunday — said that he is in better shape physically than he was in any of his first three seasons with the Sox.

All of that said, neither Farrell nor Matsuzaka could say whether the pitcher will have finished the necessary steps to be ready to pitch come Opening Day. Of course, Matsuzaka need not pitch that early. Indeed, thanks to a boatload of early off days, the Sox could go without a fifth starter until April 18 — and that date assumes that there are no rainouts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox Morning Notes: Friday 03.05.10 at 9:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s a big day for the half of the Red Sox‘ top six starters, as both Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield are scheduled to make their first Grapefruit League starts on the other side of Fort Myers against the Twins, while Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session of the spring.

In other health-related news, manager Terry Francona reports that Mike Lowell was politicking to get into next Wednesday’s game in Fort Myers.

“Obviously, he’s feeling good,” said Francona. “I still think that’s a little quick.”

Francona said that if all goes well, Lowell could more likely see his first game activity on Sat., March 13, after a pair of road games on the East Coast of the state. Ideally, Francona would like to use Lowell as a DH, but said that could present a logistical challenge, given the need to have David Ortiz get at-bats.

Here’s the Red Sox lineup for today’s game:

Cameron, 8
Hall, 9
Martinez, 2
Drew, DH
Lowrie, 4
Anderson, 3
Kalish, 7
Navarro, 5
Iglesias, 6

SP – Lester

Other developments in the Fort:

Dustin Pedroia, who was mentioned briefly as a possibility to play shortstop this year before the team signed Marco Scutaro, said that he hasn’t taken any grounders at short this spring. Indeed, he couldn’t recall the last time that he had taken grounders at the position, positing that he likely hadn’t done so since 2006.

Terry Francona had his Michael Jordan experience when he managed the basketball legend in the minors in 1994. Mike Cameron had his own memorable encounters with His Airness when both were White Sox minor leaguers. As it turns out, the Sox actually have three generations of people who had memorable baseball encounters with Jordan.

Casey Kelly recalled that he got to meet Jordan when he was a four-year-old scrambling around ballparks with his father.

“My dad was with Chattanooga. All the players asked me to get his autograph because they were too afraid to. I would just nonchalantly go up and say, ‘Hey Mike, would you sign this?'” Kelly grinned. “He always would.”

–Francona appears in a couple scenes in the movie “Major League.” He can be seen coming off the field from first base, wearing No. 24 for the Indians.

–Francona said that Tim Wakefield is positioned to assume a normal spring workload.

“He’s actually been throwing the ball great,” Francona said. “No reason for him not to pitch.”

–Francona said that Jed Lowrie seems to be feeling good, though his wrist fatigues after activity. The manager also thinks that Lowrie has been somewhat tentative in both his swing and while trying to backhand the ball.

“I think you’ll see a bit more bat speed when he gets more confident,” said Francona, noting that David Ortiz went through something similar when he returned from his wrist injury in 2008.

More to come shortly…

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Kelly: ‘I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling’ 03.03.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Though his outing against Northeastern University lasted just one perfect inning, spanning 10 pitches, Red Sox pitcher Casey Kelly could not help but beam.

The setting was not to be confused with that of a major league game. Kelly, a 2008 first-round pick out of Sarasota High School, was pitching in the Sox’ exhibition opener against a college. Indeed, the right-hander — who would have been a college sophomore had he accepted a scholarship to play baseball and football at the University of Tennessee — joked that he “finally made that college debut.”

Even so, there was a significance to his first game activity of 2010. Kelly was able to take stock of the experienced big leaguers on the field behind him to feel as if he had achieved a meaningful milestone.

“I don’€™t think I’€™ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound. It was a good first outing. To have the crowd and all those people behind me playing defense was a tremendous honor,” said Kelly. “I was just excited to put that Red Sox uniform on, get to play on the same field as some of the big leaguers ‘€“ Bill Hall, Jacoby [Ellsbury], Jed Lowrie, Gil Velazquez. To throw to Victor Martinez, I think I was more nervous about throwing to him than to face hitters. I felt good out there, and I’€™m excited to get that first outing out of the way.”

Kelly threw 10 pitches, seven for strikes, punching out two Northeastern hitters (both on changeups) and getting another to ground out on a first pitch fastball. His fastball registered 90-92 mph, roughly the same velocity that he displayed throughout his first pro season.

There were moments of confusion, such as when catcher Martinez shook his head while calling pitches, an indication that he wanted the pitcher to deliver a “fake shake” of his own head. Kelly was unfamiliar with the process.

“I was kind of confused,” Kelly admitted, “but afterwards we laughed about it.”

Martinez was not laughing, however, about what he saw from Kelly on the mound. Instead, he marveled at the fact that a 20-year-old who has just a half-season of pro pitching experience (after splitting his time between the mound and shortstop last year) could look like such a natural on the mound.

“I just heard that [he’s just become a full-time pitcher]. That’€™s amazing. Shortstop, going to pitch? That’€™s amazing. I thought he signed as a pitcher. His delivery and all that, it was pretty good,” said Martinez. “The kind of stuff he’€™s got is amazing for the time he’€™s been pitching.

“He has some great stuff. He was throwing his fastball in and out, mixing it with his curveball, changeup. He only threw one inning, but he threw pretty good pitches, quality pitches.”

Though Kelly pitched at Busch Stadium in St. Louis last July in front of tens of thousands of fans for the All-Star Futures Game, he still admitted that there were nerves entering his Wednesday outing. And so, in pitching in a game for the first time since that July contest, Kelly could appreciate the fact that he was dealing with butterflies, and that he was able to gain enough composure to execute his pitches.

“For me, it was kind of getting that first outing out of the way, getting those jitters, kind of understanding how the routine is, going about throwing your pen, how the timing matches up with the game,” said Kelly. “You just kind of get the first one out of the way, take a deep breath and breathe, kind of look at how things went, how my stuff was for the game.

“I was very, very nervous going in. Once I got on the mound, the competition takes over and you want to do your best,” he added. “It felt like I had been doing it for a while now. It felt like I didn’€™t take an eight-month break. I felt good out there. It’€™s kind of like riding a bike: once you do it once, it came back pretty fast.”

Kelly said that he is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles. Though his time in big-league camp, in all likelihood, will not last too long beyond that, Kelly is nevertheless using his opportunity as a learning experience that, he hopes, will have practical application down the road.

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Casey Kelly’s inning at 1:10 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Casey Kelly just sailed through an inning of work in the top of the first inning against Northeastern. He retired the Huskies in order. After falling behind leadoff man Tucker Roeder, 2-0, he then came back with three straight strikes to punch him out swinging. He then got Tony DiCesare on a first-pitch groundout to second, then finished the inning by punching out Northeastern’s Frank Compagnone on four pitches, the last one a swing-and-miss fastball.

Kelly’s line was a perfect inning with two strikeouts, in which he threw 10 pitches (seven strikes).

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Red Sox Wednesday Morning Notes at 10:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The games begin today, as the Red Sox will take on Northeastern and Boston College in their first two exhibition games of the spring. Northeastern players are leaning over the rail at City of Palms Park, watching the Red Sox take infield.

The most watched Red Sox player of the day will likely be top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, the 20-year-old who will, finally, get a chance to pitch against college competition after bypassing a scholarship offer at the University of Tennessee to sign as a first-rounder with the Sox for $3 million.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona cautioned that Kelly is not expected to be a finished product in his one-inning stint today, and that he will likely be dealing with nerves while on the mound. Still, the Sox skipper makes clear that there is plenty of interest in seeing Kelly in a game situation.

“I’€™m looking forward to watching this, but I think what is so interesting is that what you see today isn’€™t what you’€™re going to see in a year and a half from now or whenever. He’€™s going to be stronger. He’€™s going to be more refined. I do think it’€™s amazing how when you look at him, he doesn’€™t look like a kid that just turned 20 that hasn’€™t pitched,” said Francona. “This is what’€™s so interesting about him. You don’€™t know where he goes. Is he a kid that, when he matures, is he pitching from 93 to 95? Where does he settle in? That’€™s the fun part.

‘€œI think there’€™s too many people they say he’€™s going to be good to say unknown. Where does he settle into? I don’€™t think anybody knows. You project and you do all this, but you just don’€™t know.’€

Francona anticipates that Kelly will have at least one outing against a big-league team this spring.

–Reliever Jorge Sosa arrived from the Dominican after dealing with a delay of more than two weeks while dealing with visa issues. He now faces a bit of an uphill battle to put himself in the mix in the competition for one of the final spots in the Red Sox bullpen. He’ll start by throwing a side session on Wednesday. “He’s trying to compete. He’s lost ground. we’ll try to gauge where he is.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw what Francona characterized as an aggressive long toss today, finishing his throwing on a bullpen mound. It appears likely that he will throw his first side session of spring training on Friday.

Clay Buchholz will throw 36 pitches in two simulated innings at the minor-league complex on Wednesday.

Mike Cameron “is doing pretty well,” according to Francona. “Unless he’s not perfect, he’ll probably play Friday.”

J.D. Drew will also play in his first exhibition game on Friday. Francona expects him to be the designated hitter.”I just don’t think it makes sense to rush him,” said Francona.

Mike Lowell is taking full batting practice outdoors for the first time of the spring today. Still, Francona said that he could not figure out a timetable for his entry into games this spring.

“We don’€™t want to hold him back, but we also don’€™t want to rush him and hurt him,” said Francona. “His thumb, I think, is feeling pretty good, but he’€™s a veteran player who’€™s been banged up, so we’€™ll try to make the progressions be appropriate.”

While Lowell’s hip is stronger than it was a year ago, he continues to ice it after workouts. “I don’t think he feels like he’s 22 years old,” said Francona.

–There was some jocularity about the notion that Manny Ramirez might be part of the delegation of Dodgers players that heads to Taiwan. Francona did note that the travel — a 13- to 14-hour plane ride each way in the middle of March — seemed immensely challenging. For more on the significance of the trip in Taiwan, click here.

–The Sox are distinguishing between the two Ramon Ramirezes either by referring to them as “Ramon” (the right-hander who was with them in 2009) and “Ramon A.” or by using their uniform numbers — No. 56 for the incumbent Ramirez, No. 71 for the Ramon A.-come-lately.

–Thanks to star mlb.com photographer Brita Meng-Outzen, who pointed out that Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven is set to become Legoland.

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Casey Kelly and Michael Bowden bullpen 02.20.10 at 6:33 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pitchers Casey Kelly and Michael Bowden threw a bullpen session on Saturday at the Red Sox minor league facility.

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