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Daniel Nava on M&M: ‘I don’t think I’ve seen [Grady Sizemore] take an at-bat where he’s seemed overmatched’ 03.14.14 at 3:16 pm ET
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Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava

Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss center fiedler Grady Sizemore and spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Nava and Sizemore both trained with Mark Verstegen at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona during the offseason.

“I didn’€™t see a guy struggling at all,” Nava said of his time working out at the same facility with Sizemore. “He’€™s quiet, but he works extremely hard and [he's] extremely diligent. He gets after his work in a very professional way, which is kind of what you would expect given his track record. Up until those injuries, he played the game right. He played the game hard, and he’€™s very good at it.”

So far during spring training, Nava said Sizemore appears to be right on track despite missing two seasons.

“His instincts are right back almost like he’€™s been playing the whole time,” Nava said. “He had a ball in the dirt and it may have scooted away from the catcher’s foot, but was right in front of him and [Sizemore] took that base like he never missed a beat.

“Everyone understands the timing at the plate is going to take a little time, but the instincts are still there. He still has that stuff and you can’t fake that. That’s something you have or you don’€™t have, and I don’t think I’ve seen him take an at-bat where he’€™s seemed overmatched at all.”

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Xander Bogaerts goes deep, but Anthony Ranaudo and Chris Capuano hit hard as Red Sox fall to Cardinals 03.05.14 at 6:37 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo struggled in his second spring outing. (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo struggled in his second spring outing. (AP)

In a game of slightly less consequence than the last time the Red Sox faced the Cardinals, St. Louis beat the visiting Sox, 8-6, in a reacquainting of the two World Series competitors. Daniel Nava led off the game with a homer off St. Louis starter Shelby Miller, but Miller then retired the next eight batters he faced. With Sox starter Chris Capuano (two runs in two innings) and piggyback starter Anthony Ranaudo (1 1/3 innings, five runs (three earned) on six hits) both getting hit hard, the Sox found themselves in a 7-1 hole by the time they showed renewed signs of offensive life starting in the sixth inning, when Xander Bogaerts launched a two-run homer (his first of the spring) to left.

Between the performances of both Capuano and Ranaudo (who consistently pitched behind in the count), three errors committed by the Sox (one each by Will Middlebrooks, Heiker Meneses and Deven Marrero) along with a passed ball by catcher Christian Vazquez, it was a sloppy performance for the Sox. Manager John Farrell told reporters that his team needs to tighten up its play.

“Tough day. No doubt. Tough day defensively. We’€™ve got work to do, let’€™s face it,” Farrell told reporters in Jupiter, Fla. “We’€™re a week into the game schedule but we’€™ve got a lot of work to do as a team. It was a tough for Will to defensively but in addition to that it was compounded by pitching behind in the count. And I think overall we’€™ve got to do a much better job of commanding the strike zone, much better than we have so far. … I think in general, as a staff, what we’€™ve shown through the first six days of games, we’€™ve got to pitch better in terms of controlling the count.”

The game featured the Red Sox‘ first umpire replay of the spring, as Cardinals manager Mike Matheny challenged a ruling that the Red Sox had successfully turned an inning-ending double play to conclude the eight. The ruling on the field was upheld.

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Grady Sizemore starts in center, A.J. Pierzynski, Daniel Nava get first looks of spring 03.01.14 at 9:18 am ET
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A.J. Pierzynski (40) will catch his first game of spring training on Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

A.J. Pierzynski (40) will catch his first game of spring training on Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A.J. Pierzynski gets his first start of the spring and will catch righthander Allen Webster as the Red Sox look to rebound against the Twins after dropping their Grapefruit League opener, 8-2, Friday at JetBlue Park.

“We’ve all seen him many times, just now it’s in our uniform,” John Farrell said Saturday morning at JetBlue Park before taking the crosstown bus ride to Hammond Stadium. “But this is the first step to handling the guys he’s going to be dealing with. Even though it’s not one our of frontline starters right now in Webster but I think first game activity for A.J. will start that transition to us in earnest.”

First pitch under sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s is set for 1:05 p.m. at Hammond Stadium.

Also starting for the first time this spring is Daniel Nava, who missed time early in camp with neck soreness. He took batting practice and participated in infield and outfield drills this week and was cleared to play.

Grady Sizemore plays for the second time in three days and will get his first look in center field after playing left field on Thursday against Northeastern.

Here is Saturday’s lineup for the Red Sox:

Grady Sizemore CF

Jonathan Herrera SS

Daniel Nava LF

A.J. Pierzynski C

Mike Carp 1B

Alex Hassan RF

Garin Cecchini 3B

Travis Shaw DH

Brock Holt 2B

Allen Webster P

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Red Sox notebook Friday: Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava to play Saturday, Christian Vazquez takes ‘big step forward’ 02.28.14 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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Red Sox notes: Koji Uehara believes he can handle the load; Grady Sizemore prepares to play; Daniel Nava’s pain in the neck 02.24.14 at 2:46 pm ET
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Koji Uehara feels ready to match his workload of a year ago. (AP)

Koji Uehara feels ready to match his workload of a year ago. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A year ago, the expectations for Koji Uehara were limited. The Red Sox had signed him to a one-year, $4.25 million deal (with an unreported vesting option for the same amount) with the idea that he could deliver dominant innings if and when he was healthy. But given that he’d averaged just 48 innings a year in his prior three seasons (during which he had a 2.36 ERA, 11.4 strikeouts and 1.1 walks per nine innings), it would have been hard to foresee his emergence as the most dominant closer in baseball in 2013, a pitcher who allowed just 10 runs in 88 innings between the regular season and postseason (good for a sterling 1.02 ERA) while producing an astounding 117 strikeouts and nine walks (a 13:1 rate), or his place as the pitcher who was hoisted skyward after recording the final out of a World Series.

So, naturally, Uehara — once a star in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants — must have been treated to a conquering hero’s welcome upon his return to his native country after the season. Right?

“Nothing has changed at all. … Really,” shrugged Uehara (through translator C.J. Matsumoto. “I think me and [Junichi Tazawa] just lack the star power.”

He said that he had some parties with family members to celebrate the season, but otherwise, there was no real fanfare for what he accomplished. Uehara did appear in commercials for a beer, Suntory Premium Malt’s (“Please try it!” Uehara exhorted; the commercials can be seen here), and he also wrote a book, but otherwise, there was little dwelling on the season with the Sox.

Did he feel as if he wasn’t getting enough credit?

“I don’t care about what people think,” he said. “Every year is a challenge. I try to make that motivation to be better.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Nava: ‘I don’t care if I hit ninth, it doesn’t matter’ 02.20.14 at 10:43 am ET
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Daniel Nava is hoping to follow up on a breakout season in 2013. (AP)

Daniel Nava is hoping to follow up on a breakout season in 2013. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With all of the speculation and talk concerning the leadoff spot in the order, Daniel Nava was mentioned as a potential candidate by manager John Farrell recently.

Farrell clarified his position on Wednesday, saying the job of batting at the top of the order is still under consideration, with Jonny Gomes possibly getting a look because of his on-base numbers against left-handed pitching.

Since joining the Red Sox in 2010, Nava (who turns 31 on Saturday) has grown accustomed to sitting back and letting things play out on their own and then going about his own business, not worrying about things he can’t control.

“I’m not going to change my approach because I think my approach is kind of similar to what a leadoff guy is,” Nava said Thursday, before hitting the field for the team’s first full-squad workout. “Obviously, the first time around, that’s where you’re a leadoff hitter and after that the situation dictates what kind of at-bat you take. I’ve been there before. If they want me to do that, then whatever they need.

“I’m pretty comfortable. It’s the only only organization I know so hopefully, five or six years in, I would feel comfortable. The Red Sox do a great job of [mixing in] the minors with the big leagues and letting you feel as if you’re part of an organization and a team, and that’s what I feel pretty grateful that I’ve experienced.”

In 2013, the switch-hitting Nava had a very impressive .411 OBP in 120 games against right-handed pitching, and for his career that mark stands at .390. Nava, one of the most humble players on the team, poked fun at his stature (5-foot-11) and his lack of eye-popping speed.

“I’ve got to get faster. I’ve got one of those two things,” Nava said of his small size but lack of blazing speed. “I’m little. Carlos Pena was a leadoff guy and he hits home runs. Certainly, there’s a little more room for flexibility. If that’s where they want me to hit in the lineup, as long as I’m in the lineup, it’s good for me. I don’t care if I hit ninth, it doesn’t matter.”

Nava did start eight games last year in the leadoff spot but more often he hit fifth or sixth, with 77 of his starts coming in the middle of the order.

Farrell said Wednesday that he is now more likely to consider keeping Nava in the 5-hole this season

While Nava would certainly be a candidate from the left side of the plate against righthanders, Farrell opened the door Wednesday to the possibility of Jonny Gomes (.377 career OBP vs. LHP) as a leadoff hitter against lefties.

Whatever happens, Nava said the main objective is to move on to 2014.

“I think a lot of us look to last year as something we can draw upon but last year is last year and it’s time to move on; 2014 is right here, it’s upon us, 2013 was great but it’s time to look at 2014 and that’s obviously why we’re here,” Nava said.

“I think a lot of guys are excited because it’s a new year and there’s a lot of things [new]. There’s been some turnover but I think there a bunch of guys who are excited to see how it’s going to play out together as a team, and that’s kind of where we were last year with walking on the field with new guys [wondering] what’s going to happen. I think it’s good though. It’s a positive thing. It’s not snowing.”

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John Farrell on Stephen Drew: ‘The one thing that we don’t want is a lingering what-if’ 02.15.14 at 1:03 pm ET
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John Farrell speaks on Saturday morning in Fort Myers (WEEI.com)

John Farrell speaks on Saturday morning in Fort Myers (WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS — The clock may be ticking for the Red Sox and free agent Stephen Drew.

The team retains interest in bringing back the shortstop in 2014. But for now, there is no apparent progress in talks with the 30-year-old. With the vast majority of the Red Sox‘ 40-man roster now in camp — including the two players who would be most directly impacted if Drew re-signed, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks — the Sox would like some clarity regarding their roster so that they can prepare for the season.

“I think there’s been ongoing dialogue there but there’s nothing new to really report or update,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “I think the one thing that we don’t want is a lingering what-if if Stephen is still out there. I think in all fairness to our guys, our clubhouse, guys that would be affected if he were to be brought in, certainly I can’t speak for [GM Ben Cherington] in this situation, I think the more that we know what our team is going to look like, or at least those guys in our clubhouse, it probably settles some of that wondering if another player is going to join us.”

Farrell said that, for the time being, Bogaerts will prepare exclusively at shortstop, with the club adapting as necessary should another player acquisition take place.

“The conversations with Xander to date have been to focus on shortstop,” said Farrell. “If that needs to be adjusted, we’ll adjust it at that time, but we’re moving forward with the players that are here.”


– Farrell identified the three key questions facing the Sox this spring as being pitcher health, the question of who will lead off (with Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava representing the most likely candidates, with the possibility of switching between the two in that spot based on whether a right-handed or left-handed starter is on the mound) and transitioning a pair of rookies (Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.) to up-the-middle positions.

– Farrell said that Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, based on their added workloads of a year ago, will make five spring training starts rather than the typical six.

– The manager suggested that the Sox regard Middlebrooks as an impact player, with his struggles in 2013 (.227 average, .271 OBP, .425 slugging, 17 homers in 94 games) representing what the team hopes is an aberration.

“I think in talking with Will at length, whether it was throughout the course of the year or having sit-down conversations with him in the offseason, he learned a lot last year. He was challenged in a few ways. I think that through those experiences, he’s understanding of what his needs and what his strengths are more readily, and that’s part of the maturation process of a player,” said Farrell. “The one thing he hasn’t lost is his raw abilities and his talent. I feel like what he was two years ago is maybe more representative than what he was a year ago, and we feel like there’s a very good major league player in there.”

– Farrell said that outfielder Grady Sizemore is moving well in the early paces of camp and doesn’t face any physical restrictions at this time, but he also noted that it’s impossible to get a clear picture of where he is until he has a chance to play in games for the first time since 2011.

– Left-hander Felix Doubront is making an adjustment in his delivery to improve his strike-throwing, but while Farrell noted that such an adjustment could prove significant on the mound, the more meaningful change was an improvement in offseason conditioning from a year ago.

“There are times where his arm action would get a little bit long. That would maybe create some inconsistencies with strike-throwing and I think once you see him throw on the mound you’€™ll see a little shorter arm-circle on the back side and maybe a little more rhythm in his hands. Those are two areas that might sound subtle in conversation but can have a pretty profound effect on overall consistency,” said Farrell. “Most importantly what Felix has done this offseason is he’€™s done a great job putting himself in better physical condition.”

– Saturday marked the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Just two pitchers have yet to arrive. Left-hander Jose Mijares (signed to a minor league deal) expected on Monday, while fellow lefty Rich Hill has been delayed by what Farrell described as a family matter.

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