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Joe Kelly, Christian Vazquez see intersquad action in Fort Myers 03.27.15 at 2:13 pm ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

With the Red Sox in Orlando on Friday, right-hander Joe Kelly stayed behind to pitch in an intrasquad game against Red Sox High-A players. Kelly went three innings and allowed a hit and a run, striking out five. He walked two and threw 53 pitches (31 strikes).

Kelly, who has been limited by a biceps injury, said he felt on his game.

“A lot better than it did throwing throughout camp,” he told reporters in Florida. “Definitely a good sign. . . . I didn’€™t feel tired out there today. My arm felt good. My body felt good. Three innings, 50 pitches, I was right around that. Stuffwise and healthwise, I felt really good.”

Making the outing more encouraging for Kelly was the fact that he was able to throw his offspeed pitches without pain or restriction.

“That last inning, I basically threw all sliders and curveballs, just to make sure that it had the right spin and zip on it, see how it would  feel on the arm,” Kelly said. “I threw those and felt good with throwing them.”

Kelly anticipates throwing a bullpen in a couple of days and then making another start on Wednesday. If the Red Sox want to reserve the right to backdate a potential disabled list stint to open the season ‘€“ since they won’t need a fifth starter until April 12 ‘€“ Kelly cannot pitch in front of a paying crowd. That means his next start would likely be in a minor league game.

Also, the first day a player can be placed on the DL, either that day or retroactively, is March 27, which means the first day a player can be activated during the season is April 11. This would perfectly fit a schedule that has Kelly returning to start on Sunday, April 12 against the Yankees.

Kelly wasn’t the only player to take the field in the minor league game. Catcher Christian Vazquez (elbow) caught Kelly and went 1-for-2 with a walk. Manager John Farrell acknowledged in Lake Buena Vista that Vazquez was prohibited from throwing to any base to protect the elbow until an exam is performed.

Right-hander Anthony Varvaro recorded seven outs over two innings, starting opposite Kelly. He allowed one hit and a walk while striking out one on 28 pitches.

Xander Bogaerts played all six innings in the field at shortstop. In two plate appearances, he went 1-for-2, with a strikeout looking and a double.

Shane Victorino did not play in the field. In five plate appearances between a pair of games, he went 0-for-4 with two walks, a flyout to center and three strikeouts (2 looking).

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Joe Kelly
Red Sox notes: Christian Vazquez to have another exam on elbow, uncertain for opening day 03.26.15 at 12:53 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — No one needs to remind manager John Farrell just how important 24-year-old catcher Christian Vazquez is to the future plans of the Red Sox.

After feeling discomfort in his right (throwing) elbow while throwing out a runner on March 13 against the Yankees, the Red Sox decided to shut him down and rebuild his strength. He did DH a week later against the Orioles but did not play in the field. Farrell said Thursday morning that program is continuing but added, there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready for the opener April 6 in Philadelphia.

“He will continue to go through his throwing program,” Farrell said. “He’ll catch on the minor-league side likely [Friday]. He threw to bases the other day and was improved. He’s not 100 percent to turn him loose in an ‘A’ game yet.”

Vazquez is batting just .176 in six games this spring.

“The last game in which he played, he felt something when he threw out a runner in his elbow. We backed him down. When he began to throw again, there was a little bit of a guarded approach on his behalf, and it affected his throwing mechanics where he’s starting to get sore in his tricep, so we altered his throwing program just to get back to his normal arm slot and natural way of throwing. We’re building that back up right now.”

Farrell said if Vazquez comes through clean on another medical test of his elbow, then the chance exists he could throw to the bases to test it out on Friday.

“That’s to be determined. He’s going to go through another exam [Friday] to determine that,” Farrell said, adding that an MRI is a possibility. “We’re not going to rule that out. That’s a possibility for [Friday]. We’ll determine that after further internal exam.”

Naturally, the question came up as to whether Vazquez would be ready for Opening Day against the Phillies.

“Probably by the weekend we’ll have a more clear read on just that,” Farrell said. “We caught some guys back-to-back — no more than five innings when we did have a guy behind the plate on consecutive days. I don’t think it was workload-related. It was one throw that he felt it on.

“He’s improving. Anytime a player misses time, there’s some level of concern because of the talents that they are, and a player’s health is first and foremost. But there’s still some steps to accomplish.”

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino blasts critics for saying he wanted to trade Red Sox prospects for Cole Hamels at 10:20 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Over the past few days much has been made of Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels, with the Red Sox potentially giving up prospects (most notably Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart) to get a number one starter.

Victorino has taken exception to the matter and spoke to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford Thursday morning calling out the critics.

“Of course. I wouldn’t use the word surprised,” he said. “I think it’s just the understanding of what was being construed and these guys are obviously going to assume because those are the names that were attached. There is no reason why I would want anybody out of here. That’s not the basis of the conversation. The conversation was if you could go get a number one, would you give up pieces of the future to go get them? That was the question. It wasn’t this name specifically, that name just because those guys have been attached to these kinds of players or in trades that’s the people they assume I am talking about. I never mentioned any names in general — it could be a hitter, it could be a pitcher. Could be any team. I’m not talking about even just here.

“These guys, individuals that want to speak up and say certain things and put me out there like I am calling my teammates out — hey, come show up. Let me discuss this and talk to you in person rather than you make an assumption and that is the stuff as an athlete that upsets me. People who make comments and they don’t come in and justify the situation. You’re going to say on talk radio and you’re going to make those kinds of comments, don’t think that I don’t hear it, or somebody is not going to send me a message, or it’s not going to get back to me. Of course it is. Before you make that assumption, Mazz, and whoever you are, let’s get the situation of what I was trying to say. I never said anybody’s name. Trust me, if there is one guy I am an advocate of and I have been a believer in since day one, that’s him [Betts].

“I am not worried about the pitching aspect. I’ve played this game long enough. I was just saying in the scheme of things, anything, not even just here, that is the part they centered in on this team or Cole Hamels and the situation that was going on. Yes, Cole is a big guy, but at the end of the day I am just talking about in the scheme of things. When you talk about prospects, when you talk about these guys. If you got a guy to me, in my opinion that has been there and has done it, rather than ‘OK this guy is a prospect and he has a lot in the future or this guy can be compared to that player. Hey, why not go get the guy now and hey, if this guy turns out tip your cap and he turns out to be that player.’

“That for me, never being a prospect and understanding that situation and having guys ahead of me that were considered that prospect or this prospect, that is the part where I justify that question. That is what I look at. I am not looking at it any other way, no other speculation and like I said, these guys are going to take the headline, or take whatever is being talked about and go make it into a bigger fish. It’s a small fish.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, Shane Victorino,
Time to revisit Red Sox outfield competition 03.12.15 at 12:40 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

BRADENTON, Fla. — It was two years ago Wednesday that the conversation really amped up. That’s when Jackie Bradley launched the first pitch of a game against Miami’s Kevin Slowey over the left-center field fence, kicking off a three-hit day for the then-22-year-old.

“It doesn’t seem too long ago,” said Bradley, who ended up hitting .419 with a 1.120 OPS that 2013 spring training, going on to also hit a home run off of Cliff Lee. “I can’t be too long ago if I remember it that well.”

It was why Mookie Betts’ three-hit performance exactly two years later offered the parallel when analyzing competition for the Red Sox‘ starting outfield spot for Opening Day.

It’s not apples to apples since Betts has 52 major league games under his belt, where Bradley hadn’t touched the majors.

So to suggest that since Betts (who is hitting .400 thus far this spring) is willing his way to the top of the Red Sox‘ Opening day with his spring training performance, he will suffer the same early-season fate as Bradley’s 2013 probably isn’t fair.

“We view spring training as having to being taken in its proper context,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Now you’re talking about two completely different individuals and how they deal with the challenges and how they adapt. Now you’re getting into personal profile, not just a broad brush.”

But, much like it did thanks in part to that March 11 day in 2013, it seems like the Opening Day conversation is starting to take shape.

Besides Betts’ performance, another aspect of the current equation that is helping define the competition is Rusney Castillo’s health. While the outfielder is progressing from his left oblique injury, each passing day without Castillo in game action makes it more and more difficult to envision him on the Opening Day roster.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, mookie betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino out with sore legs, wonders, ‘What’s my problem?’ 03.07.15 at 11:16 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Shane Victorino has no idea what he was thinking.

Playing just his second game in seven months on Friday against the Marlins at JetBlue Park, Victorino went first to third on a Daniel Nava double to left, sliding in just ahead of Don Kelly’s throw. He felt fine in the immediate surge of adrenaline, but his legs tightened later.

When he arrived at the park on Saturday morning, he knew he shouldn’t risk playing. Originally in the lineup, he’ll instead take the day off with what manager John Farrell described as “general soreness.”

Sitting in the dugout before the game, Victorino just shook his head.

“Second game in seven months and I’m going first to third on a bang-bang play?” Victorino told WEEI.com with a wry laugh. “What’s my problem?”

Victorino actually knows the answer to that question.

“It’s the only way I know how to play,” he said.

What’s important to note, Farrell said, is that Victorino’s back is fine. As proof, he took batting practice before Saturday’s game against the Twins. He’ll take Sunday off as well before heading across the state to play against the Cardinals in Jupiter on Monday.

The original plan had been to give Victorino the trip off, to save his surgically repaired back from a three-hour bus ride, but he’s determined to play.

“Coming out of the game yesterday and when he reported this morning, we’re just trying to be on a little bit of the cautious side,” Farrell said. “It’s just a lower extremity — quad, hammies. It’s not back-related at all.”

Read More: 2015 spring training, Shane Victorino,
John Farrell says ‘it’s likely’ Shane Victorino returns to switch-hitting this season 02.26.15 at 3:29 pm ET
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Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — If all goes as planned, Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting this season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that he and the staff have talked to the outfielder about the plan, which will include spring training at-bats from the left side of the plate.

Victorino gave up hitting left-handed late in the 2013 season when he injured his hip running into a wall while chasing a fly ball along the right field line.

“It’s likely that he hits left-handed in games,” Farrell said. “If you think back to ’13 late in the year, he switched solely to the right side because of some physical restrictions. With those being freed up now, the left side of the plate comes back into play.”

In 2014, force to hit right-handed against right-handed pitching, he managed to bat just .241 with a .283 on-base percentage in 90 plate appearances over 27 games. Lifetime, Victorino is .268 hitter with a .329 on-base percentage as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching.

Farrell said the work will begin as soon as possible so Victorino can get up to game speed with left-handed hitting.

“Every guy is going to be a little bit different. He’s going to take all the extra work that he can physically tolerate. I think until we get into games, it’ll probably be a better read on how many number of at-bats left-handed it would require [in spring training]. But if you think about two years ago in ’13 in spring training, I don’t know if he got a hit in spring training. Open up in New York, he’s got three line drive base hits the first day of season. So again, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with that side of the plate, taking some pitches and taking some at-bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, MLB
Ben Cherington on D&C: MLB pace of play changes will be ‘a process’ at 11:04 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things Red Sox and also to discuss the recent MLB pace of play changes. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

A major topic of discussion in the early days of spring training has been the recent pace of play changes in an effort to speed up the game. Cherington feels it is going to be a process, as is almost anything when it comes to implementing changes.

“I think as with anything when there is change it’s a process — and we have spring training to work through that,” said Cherington. “There’s a lot of smart people who have looked at this issue and feel strongly that pace of play is a critical issue for the game, for the greater good of the game. We all have a stake in that. Now it’s a question of how to improve that, how to execute it on the new policy so that it actually works and everyone gets comfortable. That’s a process. We have to use spring training to communicate, to educate, to allow players to feel what it feels like and frankly, our staff has that built into spring training. Since we’re very early in spring training, some of that communication hasn’t happened yet.”

Part of the process is a pitch clock in minor league games. The general manager feels pitchers will end up liking it after adjusting to it, as it will help them establish a good pace.

“It’s a matter of practicing it — this is something we will do at minor league camp — you start throwing your bullpens with a clock so you can get used to it,” Cherington said. “Once you get used to doing that, they’ve left enough time to get the ball and deliver a pitch. It’s a matter of getting in the habit of doing it. I think a lot of pitchers will find that once they get into that habit they will actually like it because it keeps them on a good pace.”

Cherington made an interesting comparison when it comes to Cuban athletes (like Yoan Moncada, who he couldn’t comment directly on as the signing isn’t official) compared to American athletes — the best Cuban athletes are playing baseball, as where in America the best American athletes are playing football.

“I think the thing about the Cuban player market, which is different than just about any that we look at, is baseball in Cuba seems to be capturing a type of athlete that baseball is not capturing in any other place,” said Cherington. “You can say [Yasiel] Puig just looks different, that’s because he is different. If he was growing up in Louisiana he would probably be playing in the SEC. If you’re growing up in Cuba you’re playing baseball, you’re not getting funneled into football programs.

“Some of the players that are coming out, they look different because they are different and if they have been training that long and training their skills, it’s pretty exciting what they can do on the field. We think there are guys, Moncada included, not to speak officially on him, that are capable of doing a lot of different stuff on the field just because they are are different type of athlete.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

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Read More: 2015 spring training, ben cherington, John Farrell, Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino has unique perspective on Cole Hamels’ situation 02.21.15 at 5:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The much-anticipated Cole Hamels press conference Saturday wasn’t exactly what some had banked on.

After telling USA Today earlier in the week that he would like to be traded to a team that compete, not viewing his current club, the Phillies, as one of those clubs, Hamels backed off his proclamation in the presser in Clearwater.

“You can’t count us out,” Hamels said, going on to explain the USA Today quotes were a continuation from a January interview. When asked if he still wanted to move on, his response was, “I’m a Phillie.”

Shane Victorino, for one, wouldn’t mind terribly if that changed.

“Do I take that lefty? Hands down,” the Red Sox (and former Phillies) outfielder said.

When asked if he would support acquiring such an acquisition if asked by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Victorino added, “I’ll text him myself, ahead of time. But it’s easier said than done. There’s a bigger picture an organization has to look at.

“We have a whole spring training ahead of us to decide things. What if the five we have now, which I’ll take every day, go out and dominate spring training. Then we don’t need something. Would it be good to have another dominating arm? Of course. But don’t count these guys out, either. And I hope they use the motivation of, ‘You think we need to get Cole Hamels?’ No, no, no. I’ll take those guys as bona fide number ones, too. It is what it is. I love Cole and I’ll take him any day on my team, but I’ll take the five we’ve got now if they can get back to where they were, and I think they can.”

The Red Sox have shown interest in Hamels, but the Phillies are clinging to their ace and asking for more than the Sox (or any other team) are willing to give up.

Other than risking injury, there wouldn’t appear to be any urgency to deal Hamels considering he still has four year (at $90 million) with a $20 million fifth-year club option on his current deal. Even if the Phillies weren’t to contend this year, they might need such a top-of-the-rotation talent sooner than later.

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Read More: Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino,
Mookie Betts has no problem sitting behind Shane Victorino 02.20.15 at 2:03 pm ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ John Farrell says a healthy Shane Victorino is his Opening Day right fielder. You’ll never guess who agrees with him.

Mookie Betts.

The player presumably most affected by Farrell’s statement wants to make two things clear. One, there’s no animosity between him and Victorino. And two, he can’t dispute anything Farrell said.

Shane Victorino is Shane Victorino,” Betts told WEEI.com on Friday. “He’s a Gold Glover. He’s won the World Series, had huge hits in the World Series. I completely understand that. That doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.”

If anything bothers Betts, just a little, it’s the perception that the competition for the right field job has driven a wedge between the two. The fact is, the veteran admires the youngster and has worked with him to improve his game.

“I have no problem being behind him, watching him go,” Betts said. “He has taught me, and he’s still teaching me, even though people are trying to make it like we have a big rivalry going on or something. I feel like we’re brothers, the way we talk. Nothing’s changed between me and him. The first time I met him, I asked him a bunch of questions, and I’m still asking him questions.

“I have nothing bad to say about anything to do with him. At the end of the day, it’s not about me and Vic. It’s about the Red Sox. I think we both have that in our vision. We were talking earlier. It’s just about winning. Whether it’s me or him (starting), I just would love to be a part of winning a World Series.”

The irony of the situation is that if there’s a player who reminds Victorino of his young self, it’s Betts. And to hear Red Sox personnel discuss Betts, it’s easy to think they’re talking about Victorino. Both play with a fearlessness belying their size, both can make things happen on the bases, both are table setters atop the order, and both bring an edge.

Betts discussed his admiration for Victorino’s toughness and swagger.

“He’s kind of inadvertently shown me that,” he said. “I’ve picked that up just watching him playing. I’ve taken that into my game, I feel like.”

Betts recognizes what Victorino has accomplished during an All-Starcareer that includes four Gold Gloves and a pair of World Series titles, which is why he won’t throw a tantrum if he ends up sitting behind the veteran.

“I still have a long way to go,” Betts said. “He’s where he needs to be, that’s why he’s been around for so long. I see what it takes. He’s showing me the steps of what it takes. That’s the type of person he is, the type of player he is.”

Both players want the starting job. Victorino has made no secret that he believes it’s his. But they’re not rooting against each other, as often happens when a veteran is pitted against a youngster.

“It says a lot,” Betts said. “Going in, I didn’t know what to expect. But now that I’ve gotten to talk to him ‘€“ I didn’t act any way at all, and he hasn’t acted any way at all. It’s just like we’ve always been. We both talked, no matter what, let’s win. Whatever it takes is what it takes. He said, ‘If it takes me sitting and helping you and guiding you the way, that’s perfect.’ And if it takes me sitting and watching him and doing what he does, that’s fine with me as well.

“As long as we win and both get better, that’s the main thing.”

Read More: mookie betts, Red Sox, Shane Victorino, spring training 2015
John Farrell proclaims Shane Victorino ‘full-go’, will be Red Sox RF if ‘fully healthy’ at 1:19 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Shane Victorino needed any pat on the back from his manager for his offseason work to rehab from back surgery, he got it and then some Friday.

“I think the most encouraging one is the way Vic has reported,” John Farrell declared Friday outside the JetBlue clubhouse. “He is full-go baseball activity. I think the way he is talking in the clubhouse indicates that he feels good about himself. We’ll find out as we go through camp here the durability from day-to-day and the volume that increase throughout camp.”

Farrell, unprompted, went even further when raving about the physical shape of his 34-year-old veteran outfielder.

“If Shane Victorino is fully capable and fully healthy, he’s our right fielder,” Farrell said. “That’s pretty simple. He was one of the best right fielders in the game two years ago. When you come back from injury, you shouldn’t have lost your job because of an injury. He’s rehabbed it successfully to date, and going forward, we just have to monitor the recovery rate. And we’ve got a full spring training to do that, and probably into the first part of the year.”

Victorino only played in 30 games in 2014, spending much of last season on the disabled list. He had season-ending back surgery on Aug. 5. In those 30 games, he batted exclusively right-handed. Farrell did not say Friday if he expects Victorino to return to switch-hitting, or when that might take place in camp.

Here are some other takeaways from Farrell Friday morning as the full compliment of pitchers and catchers invited to camp reported for physicals and 1-on-1 interviews.

On whether he or the organization is concerned about the physical condition and weight of Pablo Sandoval: “No, not concerned about his weight. There’s a number of people he’s working with here to make sure he’s on the field every day. And that would be the case throughout the course of the regular season. We were well aware of Pablo’s career, who he is as a person, long before he signed here. We’re looking forward to getting him on the field and acclimating him into this roster.

“You’ll get to know that Pablo has an infectious personality. He cares about his teammates and plays the game the right way. We’re extremely excited that he’s in our uniform. He’s going to be a productive player for us.”

On the main spot of competition on the pitching staff: “There’s probably an area in the bullpen that we’ve got some competition for, whether that’s one or two spots we have some guys competing for, that will work itself out during camp.”

On his rebuilt starting rotation: “I’m excited about the five guys in the rotation. I think this is a group that has established themselves at the big league level. There’s been All Star performance capability to that level and there’s been a lot of talk that we lack a true No. 1 guy. I like the fact that this is a deep and talented rotation and I’m confident in it.”

On his excitement on the eve of the first pitchers and catchers workout on Saturday: “Even as far back as a week ago, we had 40-plus players that had already reported to camp and I think it is an indication of the eagerness and the want in the attitude of the players to get spring training underway and put last year behind us even further and establish a tone in camp that will carry us through the start of the season.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Farrell, Shane Victorino,
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