FORT MYERS, Fla. — So much has been made of the competition for the last spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen. The reality is that, for at least a few days, it might not make a difference.

Robby Scott

Robby Scott

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So much has been made of the competition for the last spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen. The reality is that, for at least a few days, it might not make a difference.

Prior to the Red Sox’ game against the Orioles Monday at JetBlue Park, John Farrell insinuated there could be a scenario where the team breaks camp with eight relief pitchers and just four starters.

It makes some sense.

With the off day after the opener, the Red Sox wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 8.

Who that starter might be is dependent on Drew Pomeranz, whose status for the beginning of the schedule is in doubt due to his latest setback, triceps soreness. Even if Pomeranz doesn’t miss his next Grapefruit League start, it would seem a stretch that he would have enough time to get in position to confidently take that first opportunity.

There is a chance Kyle Kendrick (who pitched well again Monday) could replace Pomeranz that first time through. Still, come Opening Day the roster will more likely boast Fernando Abad and Robby Scott, or Noe Ramirez sliding in to make his second straight Opening Day roster.

Abad would seem to have the upper hand in making the team right now because, unlike the others, he is out of options.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fernando Abad strolled through the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning wearing big smile on his face, along with his brand new t-shirt brandishing the Dominican Republic flag.

Abad was fresh off his stint with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, with his countrymen getting eliminated Saturday night.

Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

Fernando Abad (Elsa/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Fernando Abad strolled through the Red Sox clubhouse Monday morning wearing big smile on his face, along with his brand new t-shirt brandishing the Dominican Republic flag.

Abad was fresh off his stint with Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, with his countrymen getting eliminated Saturday night.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I felt good to represent my country. I was happy to be part of it. [The Red Sox] know what I can do, so I wanted to go there and represent my country if I got the call.”

During WBC run, Abad pitched four times and didn’t give up a run, going 2 1/3 innings

So, what now?

Abad re-enters camp in a hot competition for the final spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen, competing against fellow lefty Robby Scott. Scott has pitched in seven Grapefruit League games, giving up no runs on six hits over six innings.

Abad still possesses the upper-hand, with Scott the only one of the two still with options.

It’s a decision that will figure to be made prior to 2 p.m. on March 29, which is the deadline for the Red Sox to cut ties with Abad and still have to pay him just 1/4 of his $2 million contract. Any commitments after that time and the team will be on the hook for the full salary.

“I do what I have to do when they give me the ball so I can be part of the team,” said Abad. “Like I felt with Minnesota last year, I feel like that now.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Marco Hernandez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis and Kyle Kendrick.

They all have done their part. But come Opening Day, it probably won’t be good enough to avoid starting the season in the minor leagues.

Hernandez and Travis have the top two Grapefruit League OPS of any Red Sox hitters with 30 or more at-bats, while Kendrick has been the team’s best starting pitcher. But a combination of factors figure to have the trip on the outside looking in when it comes to cracking the 25-man roster.

Perhaps the entire camp’s best player to date, Hernandez, is hitting .405 with a 1.208 OPS in 37 at-bats. The 24-year-old has also shown an ability to handle second base, shortstop and third base without any issues, while also showing an impressive burst on the basepaths after losing some pounds over the offseason.

Even before notching two triples in the Red Sox’ loss to the Twins Sunday afternoon, Red Sox manager John Farrell identified Hernandez as something more than just a utility guy.

“To think back when we acquired him for Felix Doubront, he’s grown in a number of ways,” Farrell said. “Physically he’s maturing. He’s getting bigger, he’s getting stronger. He did a great job in the offseason of getting himself in shape with morning workouts and playing at night in the Dominican Winter League. He’s an explosive player. he can run, he’s got tremendous bat speed. We have him in this competition for a utility job. There’s a lot of people … this is an everyday player if you really start to break him down and look at what he’s capable of doing. Yet he’s in a group that’s talented, that’s deep so finding his place, that’s ongoing.”

The reality at the moment is that unless something happens to somebody, Hernandez won’t beat out Josh Rutledge for the other utility infielder spot. Why? He hits left-handed.

With Brock Holt serving as the extra lefty hitter, Rutledge provides a better fit because he protects the Red Sox if Pablo Sandoval has any struggles hitting from the right side. Rutledge is also a Rule 5 draftee, meaning he has to make the 25-man roster or be sent back to Colorado.

Travis is hitting .333 with a 1.133 OPS and three home runs in his 33 at-bats. But with Hanley Ramirez still able to function as a hitter, and Mitch Moreland acquitting himself quite well at first base, the 23-year-old will have to wait his turn.

As for Kendrick, there might be a chance he gets a crack at the bigs. But, right now, it’s still a longshot.

If Drew Pomeranz’s sore triceps sets him back at all, that would seemingly open up a spot for Kendrick for that first time through the starting rotation. It should be noted, however, that the righty would need to be put on the 40-man roster. (That might be made possible from the Red Sox moving on from outfielder Bryce Brentz, who is out of options.)

If nothing else, Kendrick has offered the Red Sox a much-needed security blanket, allowing just three runs in his 18 Grapefruit League innings (1.50 ERA). A bonus for the Red Sox is that 32-year-old doesn’t have a opt-out in his deal until June.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The goal was to offer a reprieve from the monotony that has been spring training. It worked.

The Red Sox engaged in a series of skill competitions Sunday morning, punctuated by an obstacle course. The group led by Rick Porcello, Chris Young, Pablo Sandoval, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt and Mitch Moreland managed to claim victory, resulting in a raucous celebration.

But, besides the obvious spirit of competition, the impetus for what was the most spirited hour of spring training was the right for the winners to stay behind when the Red Sox travel up Interstate 75 to play the Yankees in Tampa Tuesday.

It was a reminder how much riding on a bus for 2 1/2 hours is one of these high-priced folks’ least favorite activities of the entire season.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few days ago, it was a Sports Illustrated photographer telling Andrew Benintendi to jump toward the camera, lay down on the grass, and simulate making all kind of catches.

“That,” Benintendi said with a smile, “was kind of weird.”

But all of this is a little weird for the 22-year-old. At least it should be.

Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

Andrew Benintendi (Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A few days ago, it was a Sports Illustrated photographer telling Andrew Benintendi to jump toward the camera, lay down on the grass, and simulate making all kind of catches.

“That,” Benintendi said with a smile, “was kind of weird.”

But all of this is a little weird for the 22-year-old. At least it should be.

Benintendi has been marching through his first big league camp with perhaps more potential distractions than any Red Sox rookie before him. Sports Illustrated was just one example of those trying to tug on the outfielder’s time. Sunday it was the MLB Network. There have been at least 10 other formal requests to go along with the daily wave of media heading to his locker.

“He’s been up there with [Chris] Sale, [Rick] Porcello, [David] Price, [Dustin] Pedroia. He’s been up there with those guys. Really only Mookie [Betts, Price and Sale have had more requests,” said Red Sox media relations director Kevin Gregg. “He’s been requested like he’s been a regular player for a long time now. This is by far the most I’ve seen for a rookie.”

Is it a concern for the man who is largely responsible for helping Benintendi direct this traffic?

“No, I don’t because I think he had a good routine in place and he frequently checks in with us about his time and what he needs to do,” Gregg added. “He’s done a good job of balancing it.”

Benintendi’s manager agrees.

“I think he’s handled it well,” John Farrell said. “He’s a very even-tempered personality and having seen that because of maybe some of the additional requests take away from his personal routine, creating frustration. He’s a pretty level-headed person.”

Watching Benintendi, it’s hard to remember this is his first spring training with the big leaguers. A year ago, he was on the back fields sitting with 40,000 few Twitter followers than he currently boasts. Now, he’s weaving in and out of the land mines that come with his current existence while hitting .308 with a .981 OPS in 39 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“I remember coming over and I didn’t know what to do,” said Benintendi of the two games he played in with the major league team last spring training (going 3-for-4). “It was like a ‘What do I do with my hands?’ kind of moment. Now it’s good.”

Somewhat surprisingly, Benintendi said he was not only expecting the out-the-ordinary attention, but feels like he was equipped to handle it. Life in the spotlight as one of college baseball’s best players, along with living with the label as the game’s No. 1 prospect, offered ample warning.

“Sometimes you might feel like a bad guy saying no all the time, but we have to get our stuff done,” he said. “But I’m a lot more prepared than I was a year ago.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Drew Pomeranz is playing it down. But, considering where we are at in spring training, the fact that the Red Sox starter left his outing after just two innings Sunday due to left triceps tightness isn’t inconsequential.

Drew Pomeranz

Drew Pomeranz

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Drew Pomeranz is playing it down. But, considering where we are at in spring training, the fact that the Red Sox starter left his outing after just two innings Sunday due to left triceps tightness isn’t inconsequential.

Pomeranz, who said he first felt the issue in the first inning against the Twins, has now pitched in just two Grapefruit League outings, totaling four innings. He finished his 47-pitch outing giving up two runs on two hits.

“The first inning, my triceps got a little tight toward the end of the first one. I told the trainers in between that inning, went back out and it stayed tight the whole time. Nothing crazy,” he said. “Just a little triceps tightness. I think my workloads have been a little higher this week. Who knows. I threw that second inning and it didn’t really loosen up. We just decided to call it quits. I could’ve thrown one more but it’s still the second start and we’ll give it a little rest.”

Considering he was behind the rest of the rotation in terms of ramping up for the regular season, if nothing else this might put the lefty in a bad spot in his race against time.

With Pomeranz’s timetable now in question, more focus falls on Kyle Kendrick.

Kendrick, who doesn’t have the opportunity to opt-out of his minor-league deal until June, has been one of the best Red Sox pitchers in camp to date. He would, however, need to be put on the 40-man roster if the Red Sox want to draw back on Pomeranz heading into April.

In 18 innings, Kendrick has totaled a 1.50 ERA, striking out 16.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford