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Wednesday’s pregame notes: Red Sox contemplating outfield of Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino 04.09.14 at 3:20 pm ET
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Grady Sizemore could move to left field once Shane Victorino is activated. (AP)

Grady Sizemore could move to left field once Shane Victorino is activated. (AP)

Once Shane Victorino works his way back from a hamstring injury (and a case of the flu), the Red Sox outfield may get a little crowded. Both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore have been playing well, and manager John Farrell said that the Red Sox are contemplating scenarios that would feature all three of those outfielders once Victorino is activated, given the possibility boost such a grouping would have on the team’s run prevention.

“All of those alignments are thought of,” said Farrell. “How we get to that point remains to be seen with roster adjustments. The one thing that continues to bear out is the outfield defense and placing a premium on that.”

An alignment of Bradley, Sizemore and Victorino would undoubtedly give the Red Sox one of the defensive outfields in the league, but carrying all three would require some roster shuffling, with Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp all part of the outfield mix. If Bradley and Sizemore remain in the big leagues when Victorino is activated, the Sox will likely have to make a move to clear one of those other three outfielders off the 25-man roster.

For more on the Sox’ incentive to feature a Sizemore/Bradley/Victorino alignment, click here.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox optioning Brandon Workman to Triple-A Pawtucket to clear spot for Craig Breslow 04.08.14 at 10:48 pm ET
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Brandon Workman got optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following his strong outing on Tuesday night. (AP)

Brandon Workman got optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following his strong outing on Tuesday night. (AP)

Life can be cruelly unjust for players at the start of their big league careers, a notion that gained reinforcement on Tuesday night in the person of right-hander Brandon Workman.

Workman pitched brilliantly in long relief for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, delivering three perfect innings before permitting a run — his only one in 6 1/3 innings this year — in the ninth inning, giving the Sox an opportunity to mount a comeback.

“He did great,” said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “One thing about Work, he’€™s going to throw it over the plate. He’€™s not afraid. He works fast, throws three or four different pitches over the plate that all have the ability to get hitters out. I’€™m proud of the work Workman did.”

His impressive open to the 2014 campaign followed a 2013 season that Workman concluded by throwing 8 2/3 postseason relief innings without permitting an earned run.

His reward? On Tuesday night, it was being optioned down to Triple-A Pawtucket. In some ways, the decision to send Workman down represents a compliment to his abilities, as the team feels that he offers them perhaps their most reliable source of starting pitching depth (at a time when Chris Capuano is at a point where he’s unlikely to be stretched out), and so the team wants him to take the ball every five days. Still, the idea of getting sent down — no matter the reason — is inevitably disheartening.

Still, the 25-year-old said that he understood the team’s rationale behind sending him down in order to clear a roster spot for left-hander Craig Breslow.

“That’€™s just part of it. They said they wanted me to keep being stretched out and stuff. That’€™s just the way it goes,” said Workman. “Obviously it’€™s not ideal but I understand what they’€™re doing. It’€™s part of it.’€

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Sunday notes: Will Middlebrooks (right calf) heads to DL, Brock Holt recalled, Garin Cecchini on hold for now 04.06.14 at 11:40 am ET
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After feeling a twinge in his lower right leg during pre-game sprints Saturday night, Will Middlebrooks was diagnosed Sunday with a Grade 1 strain of his right calf and immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The third baseman underwent an MRI Sunday morning that revealed the nature of the injury. Taking Middlebrooks place on the roster is utility infielder Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.

In playing the first four games of the season, Middlebrooks was 4-for-13 (.231) with one homer, one double and four strikeouts.

“He was disappointed when he first felt the calf grab him,” Farrell said. “The exam probably confirmed some of the thoughts based on the way he was reacting and responding to the sprints he went through and what he felt afterward. Unfortunately, we’re missing a power right-handed bat that was getting off to what looked to be a pretty darned good start.”

“It’s going to be case. He’ll be back on the field when he’s first available but it’s not going to be for another two weeks.” Longer? “Could be but we don’t know that yet.”

Farrell said the organization decided against promoting top infield prospect Garin Cecchini due to the desire to see Cecchini get more defensive reps with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“While he’s had some good at-bats there there’s still some development defensively that’s taking place,” Farrell said. “His time is coming but we didn’t feel like it was right now.”

Cecchini is hitting 5-for-9 (.556) in his first four games with Pawtucket this week.

Holt comes to Boston after being one of the last cuts in camp, when the team decided to keep infielder Jonathan Herrera.

“We’ll see what the best matchup might provide with those two guys,” Farrell said of Herrera and Holt. “Right now, Brock is the one that is on the roster. To get someone here currently to fill that spot and then in response to put Will on the DL. Whether we look find a better fit, that’s something we’re always looking for, not just this case but every other case so we’ll see what transpires over the two-week period that Will is going to be missed.”

Herrera was thrown into the fire Saturday night as the emergency fill-in at third base when Middlebrooks was initially scratched.

“This is a veteran guy who’s been accustomed to that role,” Farrell said of Herrera. “He finds a way to contribute based on his skills and he was able to do that [Saturday] night. Short notice, given the level of experience he has, he’s been in that position before and did everything we could’ve asked.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Christian Vazquez is more than just a glove; Anthony Ranaudo brings back power; Mookie Betts remains outrageous 04.05.14 at 9:01 am ET
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Christian Vazquez (AP)

Christian Vazquez (AP)

Over time, Christian Vazquez has developed a reputation as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors, someone whose arm behind the plate is a game-changing weapon that has earned the 23-year-old comparisons to perennial Gold Glover Yadier Molina. But increasingly, Vazquez is starting to earn more far-reaching comparisons to the Cardinals All-Star not just for his defense but for the trajectory of his offensive development.

As a hitter, Molina was something of a late bloomer, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors (.278/.335/.368) and struggling in his first three big league seasons (.238/.291/.342 through his age 23 season in 2006) before taking a leap forward as one of the top two-way catchers in baseball, hitting .297/.353/.422 from 2007-13.

It remains to be seen what kind of hitter Vazquez ultimately becomes, but his progress commands notice. In 2012, he walked 48 times and struck out 79 times; last year, he walked the same number of times (48) but cut his strikeout rate roughly in half (44) while posting a .287 average, .375 OBP and .391 slugging mark. His approach passes the eye test as a hitter who does not expand the strike zone and whose hand-eye coordination permits him to hit line drives to all fields.

This spring, there were signs that Vazquez’s improved knowledge of the strike zone could permit him to make more of an offensive impact as he takes some chances pulling the ball. He crushed a couple of homers in big league spring training, offering a glimpse of a catcher who could have the ability to hit for average, get on base and deliver a bit of sneaky pop — in short, a player who may be ready to challenge his perception as a defense-first player whose limited offensive skill set profiles as that of a backup or a below-average everyday catcher.

On Friday, Vazquez went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles — one to right, one to left. While the one-year deal for A.J. Pierzynski resulted in a sense that Vazquez could emerge as the Sox’ catcher by 2015, his offensive improvements suggest a player who will be ready before that if the need arises.

“In my mind, he’s ready now,” manager John Farrell said of Vazquez on WEEI’s Down on the Farm.

Programming Note: Sunday on Down on the Farm: Red Sox hitting coordinator Tim Hyers will discuss Vazquez and other Red Sox prospects, and ESPN’s Keith Law will discuss the shape of the different farm systems among American League East teams. Listen to the show on WEEI on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-4 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Craig Breslow, pitching in the second of back-to-back games, logged a scoreless inning in which he allowed a double and struck out a batter. On Friday, Breslow said that it was his hope that he would be ready for activation from the disabled list after his second Triple-A outing, though he will meet with team officials on Saturday to make the determination of whether he will make any further rehab appearances. Breslow threw eight of 12 pitches for strikes, getting two groundouts and a punchout. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sox place Craig Breslow, Steven Wright on disabled list to start season 03.27.14 at 11:11 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox made a pair of roster moves following their 4-1 victory over the Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday night, placing both Craig Breslow (mild left shoulder strain) and Steven Wright (recovery from sports hernia surgery) on the disabled list. Wright has just been cleared to ramp up his throwing program and will open the year in extended spring training in Fort Myers. Breslow, by contrast, likely will be activated in the early days of the season.

Breslow’s disabled list trip is retroactive to March 21, meaning that he can be activated as early as April 5. He has pitched in two minor league spring training games, tossing 15 pitches (10 strikes) in an inning of work with a fastball at about 87 mph and a swing-and-miss changeup on Thursday. Breslow felt like the DL stint was unnecessary and told the Sox as much, but the team feels that he will benefit from building arm strength with perhaps two or three minor league outings before he joins the roster.

“[Breslow] felt like with three appearances that were outlined [during spring training], he felt like he’d be ready for the start of the season. We just felt like similar to last year, with a couple extra outings in that first week of the season just to continue to build his foundation,” said manager John Farrell, alluding to the fact that Breslow spent the initial weeks of last year on the DL. “I thought today, watching him in the minor league game, there was a clear step-up in stuff without overexerting. We expect this stay to be minimal.”

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Grady Sizemore will not bat leadoff to start season at 4:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have yet to make a definitive announcement regarding who will be their Opening Day center fielder. But manager John Farrell did express one certainty on Thursday: If Grady Sizemore makes the team as its Opening Day center fielder, he won’t hit leadoff.

Though Sizemore was once one of the game’s most dynamic leadoff hitters, Farrell said that there were a couple of reasons that left him inclined (again, assuming Sizemore is on the roster) to have someone else in the top spot. First,Farrell wants to get a high on-base player at the top of the order. For now, Sizemore has been more of a contact hitter (.306 average) than an on-base machine (two walks, .342 OBP) in his return to games this spring. Moreover, Farrell noted that lowering Sizemore in the order would be one way of making the buildup in his workload more gradual as he attempts to return to the big leagues after not playing at any level in two and a half years.

“We look at those top spots in the lineup as on bases being the most important, and we also factor in, if it were to be Grady, there’s a potential of one more at-bat every single night, and how does that cumulative effect affect him given the amount of time off?” noted Farrell. “We’d probably see him middle, where he’s at, in the five/six range, in the lineup initially.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Craig Breslow takes ‘a good first step’ 03.24.14 at 3:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It has been, by Craig Breslow‘s own admission, “kind of weird” for the left-hander to go through a spring in which he’s felt healthy yet has been held behind his teammates in their preparations for the 2014 season. Whereas most of his teammates are nearing the conclusion of their in-game buildup towards the season, Breslow has been left to throw in non-competitive situations, whether long-tossing or bullpen sessions.

That being the case, Monday represented a meaningful step forward for the 33-year-old. For the first time this spring, he pitched in a game setting — this one a High-A contest against Orioles minor leaguers — in an effort to build arm strength and get a feel for how close to major league-ready he is.

How close to big league-ready did Breslow feel?

“Six days,” Breslow chuckled, mindful of the proximity of the start of the regular season. “Difficult to kind of quantify. I feel like the thing about arm strength is you can only build it up by going out and throwing, and this was good for me to have the confidence that I can go out there, I can throw all my pitches, I can throw them with good intensity, I can be effective in a game, so now when I’m not on the mound I can similarly be aggressive and try to build up arm strength.” Read the rest of this entry »

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