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Red Sox notes: As Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara return, Shane Victorino closes on joining them 04.17.14 at 10:09 pm ET
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Koji Uehara is available to pitch on Thursday night. (AP)

Koji Uehara is available to pitch on Thursday night. (AP)

The initial weeks of the Red Sox season have been characterized mostly for the players whom the team has lost or come close to losing. Already, the team has endured disabled list stints by Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks, while enduring scares with Dustin Pedroia, Koji Uehara and Mike Napoli.

But for the first time, the Red Sox have enjoyed a stretch of what appears to be steady improvement in their outlook. Pedroia missed just two games with his left wrist inflammation before returning on Wednesday night. Napoli, after missing one game following the dislocation of a finger on his left hand, showed enough improvement and diminished swelling to return to the lineup for Thursday night’s game against the White Sox. Koji Uehara, after missing six games with stiffness in his shoulder, likewise was expected to be available to pitch in Thursday night’s game should the need arise.

 Meanwhile, Shane Victorino is expected to start his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday, likely in Pawtucket, manager John Farrell told reporters. Victorino is currently slated to play on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday in the minors, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated with the possibility of activation during the Sox’ series at home against the Yankees next Tuesday through Thursday.

However, the Sox did receive imperfect medical news on one front, as Middlebrooks had to be sent back to Boston from Chicago after coming down with the flu. That, in turn, has delayed the progress of his rehab from his calf strain. His timetable for a rehab assignment has yet to be established.

OTHER RED SOX NOTES Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox notes: Shane Victorino’s return slowed; no timetable for Will Middlebrooks 04.07.14 at 7:37 pm ET
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Shane Victorino (AP)

Shane Victorino is battling a hamstring injury and a sickness. (AP)

The Red Sox have felt the absence of Shane Victorino early, and the team remains uncertain about when it will get its everyday right fielder back.

Victorino, who suffered a hamstring injury in the final game of spring training that resulted in his placement on the disabled list, was further slowed in his efforts to rehab by a nasty bout of the flu last week. Illness forced him to miss the visit to the White House and continued to afflict him into the weekend.

The reigning AL Gold Glover is finally improving to the point where he’s been able to commence exercise, but there’s a good chance that he’ll still be resuming the earliest stages of his return to baseball activities at the end of the coming week. That being the case, his return to the active roster appears likely to have been slowed by his illness.

“He was in earlier today for treatment, so the flu symptoms, those are slowing. … He’s started to do some cardio work, so we’re starting to get some physical activity back in the mix, but that’€™s been delayed because of how he’s felt from the flu,” said manager John Farrell. “We’re still trying to keep him away from everyone else for obvious reasons, but as we get through this week or toward the end of this week and not just the treatment but also the activity starts to ramp up, we’ll get a better read on a projected time for a rehab assignment.”

Meanwhile, there is no timetable yet for Will Middlebrooks‘ return as he continues to let his strained calf heal. While Farrell said the third baseman’s discomfort had diminished since he was placed on the disabled list on Sunday, it will be some time before he does anything more than receive treatment for the injured area.

OTHER NOTES

Farrell said that there were no concerns about Clay Buchholz‘s health in the aftermath of his poor outing on Saturday. Farrell said the issue was one of location rather than health.

– Farrell characterized shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ defense to date as being “probably a little bit more than we anticipated, and that’€™s not to say we had lower expectations of him. There was a ball yesterday that he gets caught a little bit in that five-six hole, went at it with his forehand when he probably could have planted and gone to the backhand. The range has been good. I think he’s playing very well.”

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For Ryan Roberts, ‘crazy journey’ ends with opportunity with Red Sox at 6:33 pm ET
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Ryan Roberts (WEEI.com)

Ryan Roberts is entering his ninth season in the majors. (WEEI.com)

The past 12 days represented a new and unknown journey for Ryan Roberts.

The 33-year-old, entering his ninth season in the majors, found himself without a team to play for when Opening Day rolled around, having opted out of his minor league deal with the Cubs upon learning that he would not make the 25-man roster out of spring training. Falling out of the typical baseball routine presented a challenge and new experienced for the veteran Roberts.

“If I had to relate it best, I’€™d say, like, the Bud Light commercial where they pick the guy up and take him on a wild crazy night and journey. That’s kind of been my deal here,” said Roberts. “It’s been a crazy journey, an experience that I’ve never dealt with before. They’re long days…the  days sometimes go by really fast, but my days went by really slow. It’s been a learning experience.”

Roberts was trying to find the right opportunity, weighing different possibilities. But then, with the injury to Will Middlebrooks and the need for a versatile, right-handed hitter with experience at third base, the Red Sox saw Roberts as a good fit. The deal came together quickly between the two sides.

“[It came together] in a matter of 24 hours,”€ Roberts said. “€œI had opportunity to think about other places to go, and then all of a sudden, the best opportunity came up [in Boston].”

Roberts will be part of what manager John Farrell described as a platoon situation with Jonathan Herrera at third base, and with left-hander Martin Perez on the mound for the Rangers tomorrow, Roberts will get the start at the hot corner. Having played six different positions over the course of career, including every infield position, Roberts gives the Red Sox some much-needed versatility and a veteran presence off the bench.

“I’€™ve been fortunate to play everywhere, I feel comfortable everywhere on diamond,”€ Roberts said. “I’€™m not going to claim to be the best at any position, but I do feel comfortable. I make mistakes like everyone else…but I feel confident I can get the job done if needed.”

Barring an at-bat off the bench on Monday, Tuesday will be the first time the 33-year-old will have faced live pitching in about 10 days. Roberts spent spring training with the Cubs, batting .237/.310/.342 with four doubles and an RBI in 18 games, but opted out of his minor league deal at the end of camp. Roberts was very close to making the cut with the Cubs, but they opted for youth with Mike Olt at third base. Though his spring training stats are rather lackluster, they’re not necessarily an indication of how Roberts was swinging the bat.

“I felt great [in spring training],” Roberts said. “Obviously, a lot of people look at numbers, and my numbers weren’€™t the best. But I would have at-bats where I saw seven or eight pitches and then I would line out. There were at-bats where I would just miss the ball by a hair…that happens in spring training. I just all around felt great. You always want the numbers to be higher, but in perspective of how I felt, I felt the best I ever have.”

Part of that related to an unexpected development: Roberts’ eyesight improved.

“Long story short, I had a stigmatism in both eyes. My left eye was 20/15, which was pretty good, and my right eye was 20/25,” said Roberts. “I went in in spring training this year, I did have contacts. I just couldn’€™t wear them. I had glasses, and didn’€™t really ever wear them. I went into spring training this year, my eyesight on my left is 20/14.2, my right eye was 20/14.3.”

Though Roberts represents a valuable asset for a club to have given his versatility and solid bat, he admits that he did entertain the thought that his playing days might be over as the days passed without a team to play for.

“It comes into your mind. I just trust that God will put me somewhere,” Roberts said. “If the door closed on baseball, I figured another would open. It didn’€™t close yet, and I landed with a championship team, and I couldn’t be more blessed.”

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Red Sox sign versatile Ryan Roberts to help fill Will Middlebrooks void at 10:57 am ET
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The Red Sox have reached an agreement with Ryan Roberts, his agency announced. (AP)

The Red Sox have reached an agreement with Ryan Roberts, his agency announced. (AP)

With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, the Red Sox sought to make their roster deeper and more balanced by agreeing to a deal with utility man Ryan Roberts. News of the agreement was announced on twitter by Roberts’ agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, which announced that Roberts was added on a major league deal. (UPDATE: BHSC deleted the tweet. Nonetheless, an industry source confirms that there is an agreement between Roberts and the Red Sox does appear to be close, pending a physical for the 33-year-old.)

UPDATE 2: Per an industry source, Roberts will receive a $1 million base salary in the big leagues. He has no minor league options remaining.

The Red Sox initially called up Brock Holt with Middlebrooks landing on the disabled list on Sunday. However, Holt represented something of a roster redundancy with Jonathan Herrera. Both are utility infielders who can play short, second and third, though Holt’s best positions are short and second; he was introduced to third base by the Sox last spring. While Holt is left-handed and Herrera is a switch-hitter, both have significantly better splits against right-handed pitchers while struggling against lefties, something that led Sox manager John Farrell to acknowledge that the team might pursue more complementary options at third base.

“Right now, Brock is the one on the roster to get someone here currently to fill that spot and in response to need to put Will on the DL. Whether we look to find a better fit, that’€™s something we’€™re always looking for, not just in this case but every other case,” Farrell said on Sunday. “We’€™ll see what transpires over the two week period Will’€™s going to miss.”

Roberts, who has played third, second, left, right, first and short in his career — with the majority of his big league time coming at third base — is a career .245/.321/.392 hitter in 510 games spanning parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Rays, with a .266/.341/.444 line against left-handed pitchers, including a .305/.345/.500 line in 87 plate appearances against southpaws in 2013 for the Rays (when he hit .247/.295/.377 overall). He hit .237/.310/.342 in spring training with the Cubs, and opted out of his minor league deal at the end of camp. Throughout his career, his defense has graded as mostly average at second, third and first.

Roberts has gained a measure of fame for the saturation of his skin with ink. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times offered an excellent profile of “Tatman” — and how his tattoos support noble causes — in this article.

While the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently full, the team does have the ability to place knuckleballer Steven Wright — currently working his way back from sports hernia surgery in extended spring training — on the 60-day disabled list to open up a spot.

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Why not Garin Cecchini? 04.06.14 at 3:21 pm ET
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Garin Cecchini led all of the minors in on-base percentage in 2013. (Salem Red Sox)

Garin Cecchini led all of the minors in on-base percentage in 2013. (Salem Red Sox)

With Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, the Red Sox elected to call up Brock Holt — who likely will serve as a utility backup man, with Jonathan Herrera assuming primary duties at third base — from Triple-A Pawtucket. In a vacuum, the decision makes sense. The Sox need a versatile infielder, preferably one on the 40-man roster, in a world where Herrera is at third. But of course, the Sox did have another option: third baseman Garin Cecchini.

In a perfect world, calling up Cecchini is less than ideal. After all, the 22-year-old has played just three games above Double-A, having opened this season in Pawtucket by collecting five hits and walking twice in 11 plate appearances, good for a robust .556/.636/.667 line. That said, there have been other instances where inexperience in Triple-A has not prevented the Sox from promoting a position player, such as in 2009 when the team summoned Josh Reddick to the big leagues from Double-A, at the start of 2013 when Jackie Bradley Jr. opened the season in the big leagues without ever playing in Pawtucket, and when both Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Kalish were promoted with less than two months in Triple-A.

And in the case of Cecchini, there is an offensive maturity and polish to his approach as a hitter that suggest a player capable of being fast-tracked to the big leagues. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sunday notes: Will Middlebrooks (right calf) heads to DL, Brock Holt recalled, Garin Cecchini on hold for now 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-Brewers series preview 04.04.14 at 11:20 am ET
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It’€™ll be a special day at Fenway on Friday afternoon as the reigning World Series champions return home for the first time since beating the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 Fall Classic.

The rings will be distributed, the banner will be displayed and the Red Sox will kick off the first home series of the season, taking on the Brewers.

The ceremonies are set to begin at 1 p.m. and include a helicopter flyover from the U.S. Coast Guard, a performance by the Dropkick Murphys and Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, and of course, the ring ceremony, as well as a tribute to the fallen firefighters who died in the nine-alarm blaze in the Back Bay on March 26.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be emotional,” first baseman Mike Napoli told MLB.com. “Boston knows how to put on a good ceremony. I’ve seen it before. I imagine the atmosphere is going to be amazing and the fans are going to be going nuts. It’s going to be a fun day. I’m looking forward to it.”

First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m., with the Brewers coming to Fenway for the first time since 2011.

The Red Sox opened the season on a positive note, taking the final two games of the series against the Orioles after dropping the opener. The Brewers, on the other hand, dropped two of three to the Braves despite solid performances from their starting pitchers. This is the earliest in the season the Brewers have ever faced an American League opponent in interleague play. The Red Sox have won seven of the nine interleague contests between the two clubs.

Here are the pitching matchups for the first home series of 2014.

Friday: Jake Peavy (0-0, 0.00) vs. Marco Estrada (0-0, 0.00)

Saturday: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wily Peralta (0-0,0.00)

Sunday: Jon Lester (0-1, 2.57) vs. Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 0.00)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

Xander Bogaerts isn’€™t having much trouble adjusting to his role as the team’s everyday shortstop. The 21-year-old has reached base in eight of his 11 plate appearances, going 5-for-9 with a double and drawing three walks in the opening series. Batting out of the 5-hole in the rubber match with the Orioles on Thursday, Bogaerts went 3-for-4 and scored twice. While he’€™s batted either fifth or seventh in the lineup so far, he’€™s making a case for a shot at an audition in the leadoff spot, since there seems to be some uncertainty at the top of the order.

Read the rest of this entry »

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