FORT MYERS, Fla. — While John Farrell spoke to the media Saturday morning, Hanley Ramirez could be seen having a intense discussion with infield instructor Brian Butterfield. A little while later, it was Farrell and Butterfield who were meeting up with Ramirez, with the Sox’ cleanup hitter holding his first baseman’s mitt.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While John Farrell spoke to the media Saturday morning, Hanley Ramirez could be seen having a intense discussion with infield instructor Brian Butterfield. A little while later, it was Farrell and Butterfield who were meeting up with Ramirez, with the Sox’ cleanup hitter holding his first baseman’s mitt.

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While John Farrell spoke to the media Saturday morning, Hanley Ramirez could be seen having a intense discussion with infield instructor Brian Butterfield. A little while later, it was Farrell and Butterfield who were meeting up with Ramirez, with the Sox’ cleanup hitter holding his first baseman’s mitt.

It seems as though Ramirez might actually be on the verge of branching out to play a Grapefruit League game at first base.

“He played light catch the last couple of days,” Farrell said. “Just spoke to him in the training room here this morning. he feels like it’s getting there. Still, the importance of getting on the field will not be understated. Him getting to first base is meaningful. The way our roster is set up, I think playing first base against right-handers is important. That’s our goal going forward.”

Ramirez has been prevented from playing in the field due to a slower-than-anticipated throwing program that has been dictated by the health of his right shoulder. If healthy, the plan continues to be to play him at first against right-handed pitching, with Chris Young sliding into the designated hitters spot.

For some insurance, utility infielder Josh Rutledge got his first taste of first base this spring, starting at the position against the Rays in Port Charlotte Saturday.

— David Price is a long ways away from returning to the Red Sox’ rotation. But Saturday did represent a small step forward for the lefty pitcher.

“There was a serious of strength tests done this morning in the training room and felt like he was improved to the point of initiating more throwing,” Farrell said.

“I put a ball on the tee and try and hit the baseball off the tee,” Price said. “If it hits the tee first, it doesn’t count. You’ve got to knock the ball off. Stuff like that. I’m always doing stuff to kind of stay in competition. That’s probably why I play so many video games. It’s just being able to compete, staying in that competitive nature and stuff like that. I’ve definitely found stuff to try and entertain myself while I’ve been so bored.”

It has now been three weeks since Price returned from Indianapolis with his diagnosis.

“I mean, it’s tough. Some guys can handle the DL and be all right, and some guys, the DL’s not meant for them,” he said. “I feel like I’m one of those guys. It’s tough, but I’m getting through it.”

— Farrell isn’t backing off the premise that there is a competition at the catching position, thanks in large part to Blake Swihart’s success with the bat (.314 batting average).

But it still would be hard to imagine anybody but Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez making up the Red Sox’ catching tandem considering both are out of options, while Swihart can be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers.

As for matching up with certain starters, the combination of Vazquez and Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be the only true set battery.

“I’m not going to run from the fact that in a short number of starts, Vazqui and Eddie Rodriguez has proven to be an efficient pairing,” Farrell said. “I like the way Swi has caught all camp. There’s been improvement there. He’s probably been clearer in a way the more offensive of the three. And yet, you look at Sandy and the way he runs a game and the way he’s paired up with a number of guys. I’m not here to say who the two catchers are, but there’s some things inside of it that to me are pretty evident.”

— Tyler Thornburg came out of his first bit of game action in good shape, with the plan to pitch again Monday. As for jumping back into high leverage situations, Farrell said that will come in time.

“I think in fairness to him, and in fairness to our team, with the intent that he builds back to the role that we envisioned when we traded for him,” Farrell noted.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

Hanley Ramirez (Jonathan Dyer/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s been quiet. Almost too quiet.

While the Red Sox were lulling you to sleep throughout this marathon of a spring training, some possible concerns crept up. And now, with just about one week left, John Farrell’s team is hoping these final few Grapefruit League games will allow for some answers.

Here are the still undefined issues facing these Red Sox heading into April 3:

HANLEY’S SHOULDER

It was assumed that Hanley Ramirez would have played the field by now. He hasn’t.

While Ramirez’s right shoulder hasn’t presented a problem when it comes swinging a bat, with the righty hitter hitting .318 with a .971 OPS in his 44 Grapefruit League at-bats, there hasn’t been any opportunity to brandish his first baseman’s glove.

Because Ramirez can now occupy the designated hitter spot, this isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it does through a monkey wrench into the Red Sox’ plans. If the shoulder continues to eliminate opportunities for Ramirez to play first, Mitch Moreland would become an everyday player while not allowing to use Chris Young as a DH vs. lefties.

It could still work out, but the concern would be over-exposing Moreland, while not being able to take advantage of Young’s mastery against southpaws.

WHO WILL PITCH THE EIGHTH?

The good news for the Red Sox was that Tyler Thornburg resurfaced in a minor league game Friday and looked pretty good. After a few days down, the reliever who struck out 90 batters in 67 innings last season, will be back at it.

If all goes well, Thornburg could be relied on come Opening Day. But will he represent the kind of eighth-inning security blanket Farrell will be looking for?

Joe Kelly would seem to be the Red Sox’ back-up plan in the eighth, but he has had some ups and downs of late, most recently giving up two runs in an inning against minor leaguers Friday. The righty would still seem to be first in line after closer Craig Kimbrel and Thornburg.

WILL DREW POMERANZ BE READY?

Pomeranz and Farrell insist the lefty is on target to make his first scheduled regular season start, which would figure to come April 9 in Detroit. He did manage to rebound from a rough first two innings against the Blue Jays Friday to turn in an encouraging four-frame outing, offering optimism heading into the final week.

Pomeranz said on the Bradfo Sho podcast that two weeks ago he finally felt the stem cell injection shot kick in, and Friday offered the opportunity to rediscover his mechanics.

But Pomeranz certainly hasn’t hit the ground running like Steven Wright, who had been on the same delayed track as the southpaw. For peace of mind, it would certainly behoove the starter and his team to build on the momentum built in his last two innings.

WILL FARRELL PINCH-HIT FOR PABLO SANDOVAL?

With the possible exception of Dustin Pedroia — who is 13-for-26 this spring — here hasn’t been a hotter hitter than Sandoval. Entering Saturday, the third baseman was hitting .362 with a 1.065 OPS.

But the problem is the Red Sox still don’t know what they have with Sandoval against left-handers. He only has eight at-bats against lefties this spring, collecting one hit. And while Farrell, Sandoval and hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez can relay all kinds of optimism that the switch-hitter will be serviceable from the right side, there still has to be some trepidation.

It took Farrell a while that first month in April, 2015 before understanding that Sandoval needed to be pinch-hit for against lefties late in games, and it cost the Red Sox. The guess is that if Josh Rutledge and/or Young are available vs. left-handers in the final few innings, in games the Red Sox are tied or trailing in, Sandoval might get the hook.

WHICH SANDY LEON ARE THEY GOING TO GET?

Farrell has made it very clear Leon is being viewed as the starting catcher, beginning with the opportunity to catch Rick Porcello on Opening Day. But there has to be some uneasiness about which switch-hitter the Red Sox are going to get, the one that tore up the American League in June, July and August, or the September version of Leon.

Leon has looked better at the plate of late, collecting hits in each of his most recent four Grapefruit League games. But he is just 3-for-19 vs. right-handed pitching, having collected three hits in four at-bats when hitting from the right side against lefties.

WHEN WILL DAVID PRICE BE BACK?

Considering he hasn’t even played long-toss yet, probably not really soon.

Right now, considering the need to start from scratch when he does start throwing from a mound, a May return would seem to be the earliest option.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The six-hole.

It’s clearly not where Xander Bogaerts wants to be, but is most likely going to end up.

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Xander Bogaerts (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The six-hole.

It’s clearly not where Xander Bogaerts wants to be, but is most likely going to end up.

“The only thing is that I’m used to hitting second or third in the past few years, in the first inning. Now, hitting sixth is something I have to adjust to,” Bogaerts said. “First and third, you’re hitting in the first, regardless. Sixth, you’re depending on getting guys getting on. It’s just an adjustment. You have to take your time and see how it all plays out. If you want to be at the top you have to go out and prove it.

“At the end of the season hopefully I’m back up there again. If not, as long as I’m in the lineup that’s what matters.”

Judging by Thursday’s batting order, which Red Sox manager John Farrell identified as possibly representative of what you’ll see Opening Day, Bogaerts will have to get his head wrapped around the unfamiliar spot in the lineup when going up against right-handed starters.

Dustin Pedroia. Andrew Benintendi. Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez. Mitch Moreland. And then Bogaerts.

While Bogaerts did end up in the sixth spot during the Red Sox’ three-game postseason run, the majority of his time over the past two seasons have been hitting second or third, where he manned in all but two of the regular season contests.

The company line for players being moved in the lineup always involves doing whatever is best for the team. And while Bogaerts takes that tact, he also is honest about his preferences when it comes to the batting order. It was a reality that was also brought to light when telling Farrell the cleanup spot wasn’t a preferred landing spot last season.

“I always view myself as a guy who is at the top of the lineup,” Bogaerts said. “It’s a little bit tough, but the manager makes out the lineup for what he thinks his best.

“The last two years have been crazy years for me. I think I’ve proven a lot. If it’s to happen, it’s to happen. I just have to go out and prove it, like I have the last few years. You want to hit. Sixth might be waiting for a little bit. That’s the only difference, that I have to sit in the second inning as opposed to the first.”

Bogaerts said while he hasn’t talked to Farrell about the move yet, he most likely will before camp is over. One of the things he might discover when discussing the dynamic with the manager is how much Farrell actually values the sixth spot.

This was Farrell in 2013 when talking about how he views a lineup: “Personally, I think one of the most important spots in the lineup is the six-hole. A higher average, more of a line-drive type, good consistent professional at-bats is one of the thing I look for because I think that spot comes up a lot with men on base. They might be pitching around that three-, four-, five-hole and you have that guy laying there looking to put up a quality at-bat and I think there are a lot of RBI situations to be had.”

So, what is Bogaerts’ preference at the end of the day?

“Second or third for me, was good. It’s what I was used to the past few years,” he said. “It’s an adjustment I’ll have to make. I could finish leadoff and I’ll have 10 stolen bases a month. Who knows?”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

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
Rob Bradford is joined by Drew Pomeranz, the Red Sox pitcher who so many are wondering if he will be able to live up the value placed on him by the Red Sox when trading away top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza last July. Pomeranz goes into detail regarding his injury last season, the stem cell treatment he underwent in the offseason, and how he thinks things stand heading into the 2017 campaign.

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.