LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Friday’s starter Clay Buchholz in line to be the Opening Day starter in Philadelphia on April 6, the Red Sox still have to figure out his battery mate.
Christian Vazquez caught a minor league game back in Fort Myers on Friday morning and then was scheduled for a full exam, which would include an MRI on his right elbow. Manager John Farrell confirmed the plan while managing the major league team against the Braves in Disney.
“It was still planned to repeat what he did [Thursday],” Farrell said of Vazquez’s throwing program. “We’ll go through a full workup following. Then to determine if further imaging is needed or to answer questions that might be unanswered at this point and hopefully to give a little piece of mind to Christian himself.
“More lingering. There hasn’t been a setback. As a matter of fact, his throwing has increased. But because we’re in the eleventh or twelfth day and not back into game situations yet, just want to answer every possible question.”
Farrell said he still wasn’t ready to project any type of timetable for his return or whether he would be ready for the opener.
“Once we get all the information, we’ll have a better read on everything,” Farrell said. “We’re limiting him right now. He’s been catching. This is the third time he’s caught under the current conditions, just to keep his legs in shape and keep him as game-ready as possible despite the graduated throwing program we’ve got him on.”
If Vazquez isn’t ready to go, then Blake Swihart, Friday’s catcher for Clay Buchholz could certainly have a chance of making the squad when they break camp in a week.
“I think anybody in our uniform is always under consideration,” Farrell said. “We’ll see how things play out over the next eight, nine days.”
Elsewhere, David Ortiz did not make the trip to central Florida but Farrell said he and Mike Napoli made it through Thursday’s return to action without any issues. Farrell said Ortiz is scheduled to play against the Rays Saturday afternoon in Port Charlotte.
One of the pleasant revelations this spring for Farrell has been watching Hanley Ramirez. It’s not watching him hit or field that’s been surprising but rather the way he has handled his new environment and teammates.
“He’s been a pleasure. He’s been great,” Farrell said. “The attitude, the work ethic. He’s been fun to be around. I think he’s in a good place mentally with the work he’s done in left field to feel good about the position. He feels there’s a good support around him right now.
“He revealed some things to me even back when he was in for his press conference on how he best responds to communication, and that was helpful to me. He’s fit in very, very well.” [Not a surprise] but I appreciated his candidness. I came away from the conversation in a 45-minute sit-down get-to-know and it was almost like being with him for three months every day, and seeing him in different ways and how you can best handle an individual. You welcome that kind of communication. It says to me that he knows himself as a person and a player.”
Clearly, adding Ramirez to a mix that includes David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval has given Ramirez an early feeling of stability in the clubhouse.
“I think anytime players get around veteran players that they respect how they go about their work, there’s always conversations that can be had to learn,” Farrell said. “I think anybody that gets a message from one of their peers, it probably resonates a little bit quicker because they’re dealing with some of the same challenges, successes or distractions. It’s a more applicable message when the guy is sitting right next to him, dressing in the locker next to him.
“Reputation and what you hear second-hand is that. You’ve got to find out for yourself. Ben’s history with him when he signed with the Red Sox as a 16-year-old had a lot of bearing on this. He knows Hanley as well as anyone and I think the way Hanley approached the whole recruiting and signing, he embraced everything that was going to be here for him, which included a position change. It’s been very good.”
With no update Friday on the status of Koji Uehara, the Red Sox bullpen remains a focal point as the team heads into the stretch run of spring training. Edward Mujica was touched for a run in an inning of work Thursday and has a 7.20 ERA. Junichi Tazawa figures to hold onto his set-up role. But another two faces could factor in as Alexi Ogando and Robbie Ross have emerged this spring. Tazawa earned the win Thursday with a perfect inning, including a strikeout. Ogando was also perfect.
“What there’s not to like? He’s brought the same stuff to the mound each time,” Farrell said of Ogando. “He’s pitched with one-day rest. He’s shown two well-above average pitches. I think the biggest thing is he feels free, he feels loose and he’s generating his normal velocity without coming out of his delivery to try to create more.
“He’s going to pitch in the late innings. There’s no doubt about it. Whether that’s seventh, eighth or ninth, he’s going to be in some high leverage situations.”
Then there’s the work of lefty Robbie Ross. He’s allowed six hits and two runs in four innings over four appearances. But it’s what Farrell has seen of Ross’ stuff that has made him think he could wind up with a role in the pen.
“He’s in competition for a spot. His last two outings, one in Bradenton, the other one in Jupiter the other day, there’s been increased velocity and finish to his pitches,” Farrell said. “He was nagged a little bit early in camp with the left knee, a little bit of swelling. He’s gotten past that now, physically. What we’re seeing is a guy returning to where he was pre-[starting] rotation in Texas, and that’s a left-hander with some power stuff.”
“Actually, if you look at his numbers, he’s been better against righties throughout the course of his career. There’s no hesitation on [facing] both sides of the plate.
“We’re comfortable. We’ve got Edward who’s closed a number of games and has been very successful in the ninth inning. We’ve got the ability to match up, if needed, depending on who’s available on a given day. We’re more than comfortable with who we have.”
Farrell also indicated he would consider Allen Craig ahead of Daniel Nava on the first-base depth chart. Last spring, Nava edged ahead of Mike Carp in that area, surprising some, and eventually leading to the trade of Carp.
As for Dustin Pedroia making the long trip to Disney, Farrell said it was an opportunity to get more spring at-bats, as he continues to show that he is all the way back from left thumb and wrist injuries of the last two seasons.
“We’ve seen right when the game game schedule started, you saw him with a much more free swing, better bat speed, the ability to pull the ball a little bit more consistently than the last couple of years,” Farrell said. “He’s going through normal timing and adjustment, as anyone would in spring training right now. The added at-bats here today are more just getting the reps and seeing pitches as opposed to work through something physically.
“He was still getting back to game speed a year ago.”
There was one other reason Farrell thought Pedroia wanted to make the trip.
“He’ll want to go check in on Mickey,” Farrell quipped.