FORT MYERS, Fla. — In the informal setting that is spring training, the sight of Ruben Amaro manning the third base coaching box instead of Brian Butterfield for the first few games didn’t get on many observer’s radar. But the switch is actually the result of the Red Sox’ master plan to get Butterfield in game shape.

Brian Butterfield (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Brian Butterfield (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In the informal setting that is spring training, the sight of Ruben Amaro manning the third base coaching box instead of Brian Butterfield for the first few games didn’t get on many observer’s radar. But the switch is actually the result of the Red Sox’ master plan to get Butterfield in game shape.

The 58-year-old Butterfield is just a couple of months off his second knee replacement in as many years, this time replacing the right one.

“I just want to be ready to go come April,” Butterfield said. “I’m on the field for some of our stuff, but when I stay on my feet right now for longer than a couple of hours I have to get off it.

“The left one I call Gale Sayers because that one is really good right now. The right one is Billy Buck because I’m not able to move on it. Hopefully this one becomes Gale Sayers. Two Gale Sayers I think I’ll get probably 120 yards on 20 totes.”

And of course, when referencing the preseason strategy, the Maine native can’t go without comparing his plight to a New England Patriot. Rob Gronkowski doesn’t need these practice games, so why should his No. 1 fan, right? (He wears No. 55 in honor of former Patriot Willie McGinest.)

“He’s a talented guy so he doesn’t, but I do. I really do need it,” Butterfield said. “I would like to be out there and I would like to be out there watching everything and doing everything. I haven’t swung the fungo yet because there’s a little twist and turn that is blowing it up. My mother called me the other day and said, ‘You don’t want to be a gimp. You haven’t been able to run for four years. Take care of that thing.’ I told her I dream of running again. I had one two nights ago, so that must mean I’m getting closer.”

With the success of his left knee replacement last season, Butterfield is optimistic the surgeries will allow him to continue doing what he’s been doing since 1994, serve as a major league coach.

“Right now, forever,” Butterfield said when asked how long he wants to continue coaching. “I enjoy the preparation. I enjoy this time of year. We have a great group of kids. I’m really excited that I might have two good legs again. The physical part, if you’re not physically right, that wears you down mentally, and that gets you thinking about your future. Do I want to continue to doing this if I keep having problem moving? But I have a chance to be a new man. I feel like if I get these wheels better I can go for a long time.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was one quick comment at the end of an excruciatingly long spring training game, but it warranted some attention.

Six starters, five spots. John Farrell surfaced a scenario.

Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was one quick comment at the end of an excruciatingly long spring training game, but it warranted some attention.

Six starters, five spots. John Farrell surfaced a scenario.

“I think a couple of different ways we could go with that,” the Red Sox manager said. “That’s one possibility. Not knowing who that one would be to go to the bullpen. I think more importantly we’ve got to get everybody back up to game speed until we start to maybe address or consider those options.”

First things first. It is very clear one of those players helping construct those options, Drew Pomeranz, has absolutely no interest in entertaining one of those scenarios Farrell is suggesting — heading back tot he bullpen.

“I’m confident enough in myself,” Pomeranz said. “People say bullpen, whatever. I made the All-Star team as a starter, not as a reliever. I had a good year as a reliever the year before and maybe I can fall back in 10 years, hopefully. Right now I just feel like this is the beginning for me.

“Look at my first half last year. I was one of the top few in the National League. Why would I want to go to the bullpen. Just because I’ve done well people are going to say, ‘He should go to the bullpen. He would be better there.’ At the end of the day I’m here to help the team no matter what, but I fought my way back to being a starter and I’m not going to give up on it very easily.”

At this very, very early point in spring training, Pomeranz sits smack dab in the midst of those aforementioned options. Ironically, it was almost exactly a year ago he did everything to not have anything to do with these kind of uncertainties.

As Pomeranz was cruising on into the spring training games with the Padres last February, the promise of giving him a chance to make the rotation was increasingly becoming a hollow one.

So, the lefty decided it was time for the rubber to meet the road. A meeting with San Diego manager Andy Green was requested, executed and, ultimately, looked upon as what Pomeranz is banking on being his fork in the road.

“Last year was just kind of a fight all around for me,” he said. “I got to the point where I want it so bad, I thought we understood each other and clearly we didn’t understand. From that point forward if I had anything I didn’t understand I could walk into his office and say, ‘What’s going on?’ and he was honest with me.

“I’ve done this long enough that I feel like I know what I need to do to be successful and it’s kind of frustrating sometimes. You want things to go one way and they don’t, you have to keep yourself motivated. Fight for what you want. This game is a fight. No one is going to hand you anything. You have to go out and get what you want. That just kick-started the whole year for me, and maybe my career.”

This was Pomeranz’s turning point. No meeting. No All-Star Game. Probably no chance to become a starting pitcher for the Padres or Red Sox.

“What we had discussed was I was coming in as a starter and at the end of camp if I didn’t get a spot I would go to the bullpen. That was my understanding,” he remembered. “Then when they put the charts up and it said one inning, and day off, and then ‘Pomeranz one inning’ I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ You’ve been around long enough to know if you’re being groomed as a starter or a reliever.

“I asked him and he said, ‘There’s definitely innings available to give you a chance to start.’ I told him, ‘I want it. I’m going for it. If you decide at the end of camp that I’m not good enough than you can put me in the bullpen.’ Immediately they gave me more innings. They changed the chart that day to put me at two innings and I got back on that progression.”

Odds are that, despite these options Farrell speaks of, Pomeranz won’t need one of these get-togethers.

Pomeranz and Steven Wright haven’t thrown live batting practices yet, with the lefty easing back into the new season after receiving stem cell injections in his elbow. But, according to both Farrell and pitching coach Carl Willis, both pitchers are schedule to make their six spring training starts.

And, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski insinuated in the offseason, if all six are healthy, it would seem Pomeranz joins Wright as the favorites to land in the rotation to start the season.

What a difference a year makes.

“You go every year fighting for a spot, and this year is a little different because I had a really good year and figured some things out,” Pomeranz said. “I’m coming into camp in the position I want to be in and am able to take it a little slower. I think it’s a good thing because it will keep me more rested. I think it will only benefit me, the position I’m in.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — New England might want to disregard its first impression of Tyler Thornburg.

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Tyler Thornburg (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — New England might want to disregard its first impression of Tyler Thornburg.

It was uncomfortable watching the new Red Sox eighth-inning guy on NESN, or listening to Thornburg’s 2/3 innings on the Red Sox Radio Network, Saturday afternoon. Seeing a guy pitch for the first time only to be delivered five runs on four hits and a walk in a two-out appearance isn’t easily dismissed.

But, unless there was physical issues contributing to the outing, this was a lesson in spring training patience.

Thornburg, you see, was really, really, really bad in spring training last year with the Brewers. This kind of bad. The righty gave up 12 runs on 18 hits over 9 2/3 innings with the Brewers during last season’s exhibition season. Nine months later he was being coveted by the Red Sox after posting a 2.15 ERA in 67 relief outings for Milwaukee.

“I feel like I do pretty much the same thing every year,” Thornburg said after the Red Sox’ unforgettable, come-from-behind, 8-7 win over the Twins at JetBlue Park. “I always tend to start slow in spring because the lower body wants to go full speed and the arm isn’t ready to do that yet. It’s just a matter of the lower body being gone and my arm was kind of finding it. I pretty much do the same thing every year. It always takes a good five or six outings to get locked in. The good news is every time I have a bad spring I always tend to have a good year.”

Considering the price the Red Sox paid to get Thornburg — Travis Shaw and prospect Mauricio Dubon — it would take a lot for the 28-year-old not to enter the regular season as Craig Kimbrel’s set-up man.

And that is a far cry from the starter-turned-reliever Thornburg found himself last year, just trying to crack the Brewers’ roster.

“It’s definitely easier. When you’re competing for a spot and you have a bad spring, you end up putting a lot of pressure on yourself to get things going as soon as possible,” he said. “That’s definitely one of the positives right now. After a bad first outing, I’m not trying to make sure I have an incredible second and third and whatever. It’s a process. There’s a reason we have as long as we do in spring training to get ready. We’re going to end up with 12 or 13 outings. It’s a process. We’ve got a full other month or so.”

— Perhaps the most impressive pitcher of the day for the Red Sox was Joe Kelly, who pitched a flawless fifth inning, blowing away Minnesota’s Matt Hague for the final out.

“He started his throwing program earlier this offseason and I think it’s paid dividends just the way he’s responded to the work to date,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell of Kelly. “He looked midseason form today.”

Relievers Robbie Ross Jr. and Heath Hembree also pitched scoreless innings, while Matt Barnes, who had to come in for Thornburg, was charged with a run on two hits while striking out three.

— Pablo Sandoval had an interesting day at the plate.

The switch-hitter tried to take advantage of the Twins’ shift in his first at-bat, bunting from the left side. But the play resulted in an out, with Minnesota pitcher Phil Hughes getting to the bid in time.

“That was on his own,” Farrell said. “But it’s something we’ve talked about trying to get some lanes back, and the next at-bat you see them back in a 2-and-2 on either side, but you like to see those types of things attempted.”

Sandoval also notched a hit in his first try hitting from the right side, although the sinking line-drive probably should have been caught by Minnesota left fielder Leonardo Reginatto (who is vying to become the fourth native of Brazil to make the major leagues).

– Dustin Pedroia, who had a hit while playing in his first spring training game, summed up the reality of these games after the Sox’ win.

“Our job isn’t to play in these games, it’s to play at Fenway and help the Red Sox win games,” he said. “We’re working. We’re not worried aobut results. I don’t care if I get a hit the rest of Spring Training. As long as I feel good and I’m preparing for what’s coming – that’s the goal.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Craig Kimbrel and Eduardo Rodriguez each pitched their first live batting practices of spring training Saturday morning.

But it was the other guy who participated in session on Field 4, Chris Sale, that offered any semblance of news in the hours leading up to the Red Sox big game against the Twins at JetBlue Park.

Chris Sale (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Craig Kimbrel and Eduardo Rodriguez each pitched their first live batting practices of spring training Saturday morning.

But it was the other guy who participated in session on Field 4, Chris Sale, that offered any semblance of news in the hours leading up to the Red Sox big game against the Twins at JetBlue Park.

Following the successful BP exercise, Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis revealed that Sale will be making his Red Sox Grapefruit League debut March 6 in West Palm Beach against the Astros.

Leading up to the start on Florida’s East Coast, Sale will toss a simulated game at JetBlue Park Wednesday before one more side session two days later. The plan is to have the southpaw — and the rest of the Red Sox starters — to make six spring training starts before Opening Day.

As for what Willis has learned about Sale since he started throwing baseballs in a Red Sox uniform …

“I guess from watching him from the side as an opponent, I’m really impressed with the direction that he’s able to maintain through the strike zone,” said the Red Sox pitching coach. “You would think with the slot and some of the body movement it would be probably more across his body. But he really has a good line to home plate. More than anything else I’ve been impressed with … and he told me early on, ‘Hey, I can throw strikes in the middle of the night.’ But it’s not even that. It’s obviously the action he gets, but the command he has. It’s electric stuff with well above average command that I’ve seen at this point. Guys with his type of stuff have a little bit more margin for error, but at the same time he’s executing location as an elite level right now.”

Rodriguez and Kimbrel both came through their forays into pitching to live batters without any issues, with Willis identifying Thursday as Rodriguez’ first spring training start.

“Right now he’s showing us his delivery,” said Willis of Rodriguez. “I think last year, coming off the injury, the first time he’s experienced it with that leg, there was maybe a little bit of uncertainty in his mind. This was an injury but not as serious. He was pitching in Venezuela when the injury happened, so he had gotten to the point of not just coming into spring training and getting ready, but he was ready to pitch. What he’s doing right now is showing us there hasn’t been any hesitation or doubt in his mind that’s going to affect his delivery. That’s first and foremost what we wanted to see, and he’s been able to show us that since his return to the mound.”

Regarding Kimbrel, the pitching coach said, “He was really good today. All pitchers, there’s a direction. And that’s not to say all of them have the same exact direction or path to get there. But today we saw after the first four or five pitches his ability to repeat that good location, or good direction. I saw a really good curveball top to bottom. We didn’t see him yank the pitches today after the first two or three when he was able to kind of get a feeling for what his body is doing. It’s a progression. I think what we’ve seen again since the first day of spring training, each time he’s stepped to the mound it’s been a little bit better and a little bit better and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Rob Bradford talks with both Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes, and assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister, about the fascinating project the reliever undertook in the final month of 2016. Barnes explains how he, with the help of others, made a concerted effort to emulate Dellin Betances of the Yankees and how that exercise helped turn around the former No. 1 pick's season.

[0:00:31] ... a difference at all what does make a difference in terms of Matt Barnes and his lot in life. With the Red Sox having in 2007 team is what you learn from last year a terrific idea. And then a really really good September and why will your about the find out. The name Dillon but the chances. Yes yankees relief pitcher Dylan bit chance at it became the detail of this project for Matt Barnes. He talked about how his season turned around. When he started locking in in trying to be. The same time pitcher that Dillon but the chances is for the Yankees really really fascinating stuff from both Barnes. And one of the guys who helped him with you don't beat Kansas project. Brian Bannister ball on the brat boat show podcast. Well last time Matt Barnes who is. On the Brad social podcasts I believe it would is doing it is probably early February and I don't. Don't ...
[0:10:03] ... your Jones going in and it's. It's it's fun. Anything new in Fort Myers had played obviously last year the deal way socialist when peaks or emerged. Is there anything and nothing now does that mean ...
[0:11:02] ... but still it is thanks. Awesome thank you. Picking up on the Matt Barnes. Till the dance this conversation is one of the guys to help work with Matt Barnes in terms of the evolution. Of his stuff last year and and that's prime minister. And Brian thanks for joining us first ...
[0:16:29] ... for a week ago way it. You know the ability and ball. Bart Bryant thanks man the only you can tell this stuff but I give up. I can put a name on it but you ...






FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rule changes. Improved time of game. All of it has been surfaced as necessities in order to drop the average age of baseball fans.

But David Price has hope.