FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was plenty to read into when digesting the plans for the Red Sox Thursday.

First, the fact that Rick Porcello was pitching to Sandy Leon in a minor-league game on the back field at JetBlue Park was no coincidence. For one, John Farrell didn’t want Porcello to be pitching against the team, the Pirates, he would be facing Opening Day.

Sandy Leon (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Sandy Leon (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was plenty to read into when digesting the plans for the Red Sox Thursday.

First, the fact that Rick Porcello was pitching to Sandy Leon in a minor-league game on the back field at JetBlue Park was no coincidence. For one, John Farrell didn’t want Porcello to be pitching against the team, the Pirates, he would be facing Opening Day.

Secondly, the presence of Leon as Porcello’s battery-mate all but sealed the deal when it came to identifying who will start at catcher on Opening Day.

“I think I’ve said many times over that if we’re opening tomorrow Sandy Leon is going to be the catcher, and that hasn’t changed,” said Farrell, adding, “The last time out [Blake] Swihart had Porcello and I don’t want to get that combination of Rick and Sandy too far removed.”

Leon and Christian Vazquez are both out of options and almost certainly will be the two catchers starting on the 25-man roster, with Swihart likely heading to Triple-A Pawtucket. Offensively, Swihart has out-shined the others, totaling a .357 Grapefruit League batting average, with an .848 OPS.

Last season, Porcello limited opponents to a .223 batting average and .558 OPS with Leon catching, compared to .242/.694 with Vazquez behind the plate.

The starting lineup Farrell rolled out in the game against the Pirates also might have some meaning. Here is the Red Sox’ batting order against right-handed pitcher Drew Hutchinson: Dustin Pedroia 2B, Andrew Benintendi LF, Mookie Betts RF, Hanley Ramirez DH, Mitch Moreland 1B, Xander Bogaerts SS, Jackie Bradley Jr. CF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Blake Swihart C.

“Eight days until we break, or whereabouts, maybe a first look at our lineup,” Farrell said. “I’m not saying this is Opening Day, but this is potential for one on Opening Day. And just to get everybody back in the rhythm. We’ve kind of fragmented because of the WBC and because of travel and bouncing around the state. To get our camp finally together, I think we’re all looking forward to these last remaining game.”

While Farrell had been toying with the idea of moving Bogaerts up in the lineup, pushing Benintendi to No. 3 and Betts to cleanup, that would seem to be a potential option.

“It’s still a thought,” the manager noted. “This was the dilemma with David hitting three or four, a year ago or previous years. You’re looking for your most complete hitter, or your most productive hitter, to come up in that first inning. And that case right now, that would be Mookie. There’s some balance to all that. The fact is that this is a pretty good problem to have with the difference alignments and who might not come in the first, and worst-case scenario. More than anything, you’re looking at five or six guys capable of being in those top three slots.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the last four weeks, Xander Bogaerts’ communication with his Red Sox teammates and coaches consisted of sporadic text messages to Brock Holt, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the last four weeks, Xander Bogaerts’ communication with his Red Sox teammates and coaches consisted of sporadic text messages to Brock Holt, assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez and third base coach Brian Butterfield.

Other than that, the Red Sox and Bogaerts’ relationship was limited to relying to the clubhouse televisions to watch the shortstop play third base halfway around the world for Netherlands during their impressive World Baseball Classic run.

“I think it was a little bit better, because the first time I was so nervous,” said Bogaerts, referencing his previous WBC experience, in 2013.

Now, after going 5-for-22 (.227), he’s back. And, according to Bogaerts, he has never been better prepared to start a season that is just 10 days away.

“I feel pretty good, to be honest,” he said. “I feel I’m a bit more ahead of where I normally am. Probably because those games, we had to go all out and be on point with them. I felt really good out there. Just going back to shortstop now is much better.”

Bogaerts did work at shortstop while with the Netherlands, taking grounders at the position before manning third for Hensley Meulens team.

Ironically, in those days he didn’t play his primary position, Bogaerts might have actually found a launching point to become a better shortstop. Lessons learned by being around the likes of Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorious, largely considered two of the best defensive shortstops in the game, evidently left quite an impression.

“I was practicing with Simmons and Didi. They are gifted guys and they can learn you a lot,” Bogaerts said. “For me, I didn’t play short, but in my mind I definitely did.”

Bogaerts is in the Red Sox’ lineup Thursday against the Pirates, hitting sixth.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twenty-one days ago, the first MRI was taken on David Price’s left elbow. It wasn’t too long after that it was determined that a second opinion would be needed.

Two days later, Price and the Red Sox were celebrating the good news: no surgery, no PRP injection and just 7-10 days of rest before potentially launching the road back to pitching again.

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

David Price (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Twenty-one days ago, the first MRI was taken on David Price’s left elbow. It wasn’t too long after that it was determined that a second opinion would be needed.

Two days later, Price and the Red Sox were celebrating the good news: no surgery, no PRP injection and just 7-10 days of rest before potentially launching the road back to pitching again.

But here we sit here. No games. No bullpen sessions. No long toss. Only some throwing into a net.

So, what should we make of where Price is at?

The pitcher offered this explanation to WEEI.com when asked about the situation.

“It’s making sure whenever I come back, it’s to stay back, not to be back,” Price said. “I know that some people can’t understand that.”

The Red Sox are still proclaiming that there is nothing to see. He went through another check-up Tuesday and the plan remains the same.

“Strength gains have been had but we’re going to continue to stay in the strengthening phase of this,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’re continuing to get his arm moving in the cage, in the workout room. But as far as initiating a full-blown throwing program, we’re not at that point yet. We’re getting closer. That’ll be happening ideally in the coming days.”

Farrell then added, “You go into these kind of open-ended. You’re not really sure what specific day it’s going to take place. You don’t really attach yourself to a calendar. You’ve got to listen to the pitchers situation, how his body is responding and what the objective tests are telling us. He’s getting closer to getting a ball back in his hand.”

The way this is unfolding, there is a very real chance we don’t see Price pitch in April. And as long as there continues to be no news of an injection, or change of course, that would be OK.

The thinking is that as much as Price might want to pitch, this is about getting a guy who has thrown more pitches than anybody in baseball over the past three years to a good place come the final two months. Thanks to the Red Sox’ rotation, they seemingly have that luxury.

It’s not what people want to hear, but in this case it has become a necessity.

One American League manager recently surmised that Price’s postseason struggles might be, in part, due to the tractor pull that is getting through the season. It might not be the be-all, end-all when it comes to the postseason narrative, but it does make some sense.

There is nothing wrong with Price not pitching 200 innings. There is everything wrong with not being able to lean on your $30 million-a-year pitcher when it counts the most. And the guess here is that the Red Sox have swerved off onto that road when dealing with this injury.

It was time to think differently about Price. And that’s why we’re still sitting here waiting.

“He has kept his arm moving,” Farrell said. “He’s incorporated some throwing, he’s incorporated some plyometrics with the arm and movement as you would throwing a baseball. He’s not static or stagnant in terms of the full range of motion used to throw a baseball.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

TAMPA — In case you didn’t know, Chris Sale owns the Yankees. And if you didn’t realize such a fact, the Red Sox starter offered another pretty good reminder Tuesday night.

In games that actually count, no pitcher since ERA has been an actual stat has had more success against the Yankees than Sale, totaling a 1.17 ERA in 10 career games (7 starts) vs. New York.

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Chris Sale (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

TAMPA — In case you didn’t know, Chris Sale owns the Yankees. And if you didn’t realize such a fact, the Red Sox starter offered another pretty good reminder Tuesday night.

In games that actually count, no pitcher since ERA has been an actual stat has had more success against the Yankees than Sale, totaling a 1.17 ERA in 10 career games (7 starts) vs. New York.

This one didn’t count, but offered the same kind of result.

Sale absolutely dominated the Yankees in making his fourth Grapefruit League start, striking out 10 in six innings. He did surrender a two-run homer in his final frame to Matt Holliday, but that hardly diminished the dominance the lefty showed in leading the Red Sox to 4-2 win at Steinbrenner Field.

“It felt good,” Sale said. “I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. You guys saw, just felt good, got a good rhythm going, just kind of following Sandy’s lead. He knows these guys on the other end of the line extremely well, so just follow his game plan and see where it takes us.”

Not hurting matters was the opportunity for Sale to get a bit closer to pitching in a regular season environment, performing in front of biggest crowd of spring training, against a Yankees lineup that wasn’t far off from what he might be seeing in the regular season.

“Obviously anybody who knows anything about sports knows about Boston and New York,” Sale said. “Even from the outside looking in, you can see it, you can sense the competitive drive on these teams and in this series. Coming in here, playing against the Yankees, playing at their park, a night game, gives it more of a regular season feel. It’s nice, it’s what we’re here for, we’re here to get ready for the regular season. Anytime you can get that much closer to a regular season game, the better off we’re going to be.”

Sale, who struck out multiple batters in each of his first four innings, figures to get two more spring training starts before being slotted in to the Red Sox’ April 5 tilt against Pittsburgh at Fenway Park.

“He was very good, he added his third pitch more this evening than five days ago when it was more fastball changeup,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His breaking ball to both sides of the plate, down underneath to some right-handed swings. And anytime he needed to, he’s got such good feel for the change-up to get him back in counts to give him a different look. He was impressive.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Could Drew Pomeranz actually be pitching for the Red Sox when the they take on the Tigers April 8? Judging by his reaction the last two days, he certainly thinks there’s a strong possibility.

Drew Pomeranz

Drew Pomeranz

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Could Drew Pomeranz actually be pitching for the Red Sox when the they take on the Tigers April 8? Judging by his reaction the last two days, he certainly thinks there’s a strong possibility.

Pomeranz has only pitched in two Grapefruit League games, having left his last one after two innings due to triceps soreness. But two days after the perceived setback, the lefty appears more optimistic than ever.

As he said he would Monday, Pomeranz executed his scheduled bullpen session Tuesday morning in preparation for his start against the Blue Jays Friday in Dunedin.

Appearing just before the clubhouse closed to the media, Pomeranz offered a thumbs-up when asked how the exercise went, followed by a succinct one-word analysis: “Golden,” he said.

Pomeranz has only pitched four total innings thus far in spring training, having been eased into action due to his elbow issue. But according to the starter, he is intending on ramping up to a four-inning outing Friday.

Even if Pomeranz is healthy, there is a strong chance he wouldn’t break camp with the team with John Farrell insinuating the club could go with eight relievers out of the gate, with the Red Sox not needing a starter until that Saturday game in Detroit.

If there are any more issues with Pomeranz’s health, the logical replacement for the start in the second game of the four-game set against the Tigers would be Kyle Kendrick.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford