Jonny Gomes (Getty Images)

Jonny Gomes (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was only for 1 1/2 seasons, but few have managed the left field wall at Fenway Park as well as Jonny Gomes.

It wasn’t by accident, and it wasn’t just because he was afforded a head start with the left field wall at JetBlue Park.

“Well, I wouldn’€™t call myself an ambassador by any means,” said Gomes, now an outfielder for the Braves. “I think I played that wall pretty well. But I think the cat is out of the bag that that wall is way different. From the padding to the net, the dimensions, feet-wise, are the same. I wouldn’€™t be in any hurry to master JetBlue’€™s wall for Fenway’€™s wall, but I guess it’€™s a good starting point.”

So, what would be his recommendation to the Red Sox‘ new left fielder, Hanley Ramirez?

“I wouldn’€™t say experience as much as being extremely open and having the work ethic to learn it,” Gomes said. “That wall hasn’€™t moved in 100-plus years and balls are bouncing off that wall pretty similarly to the way they did 100 years ago. At the same time, it’€™s so foreign from anywhere else. It’€™s not like grabbing a wall and throwing a ball off it. There’€™s a lot to be learned off that wall.”

Gomes, who was hitting third for the Braves‘ visit to JetBlue Tuesday, was not only good at playing the Fenway wall, but in some ways he was an innovator.

Through working on the wall throughout his first spring training, Gomes incorporated a strategy never seen before from Red Sox left fielders — catching balls directly off the wall instead of letting them bounce.

The thinking behind the ploy was that little harm can be done if the ball is missed and gets away in front of the fielder. It would usually be a double, anyway.

It’s one of the many aspects of playing left field that outfield/first base coach Arnie Beyeler has been working with Ramirez on throughout the exhibition season. (Although the new left fielder hasn’t truly been tested too many times thus far.)

“He was very creative out there, catching the ball off the wall,” Beyeler said of Gomes. “He started working on that, practicing that. That’s something that if you don’t play enough games out there you’ll waste your time trying to do it and you create more problems. He sure opened an awareness of how you can control the game a little better.”

Now, it’s Gomes’ legacy that Beyeler is currently trying to pass on to Ramirez.

“The biggest thing that stands out to me is catching a ball off the wall, but you have to work on it,” the coach said. “You can’t go out there and do it, and then you still have to know speed of the runners, situations and if you get caught in between on a ball you change your risk/return on when you do something like that. He was really smart about that and had all kind of game awareness from that standpoint.

“It’s going to take time. It may take two or three years of getting to know all that stuff out there because you just don’t get a lot of those balls out there to you. That’s why we hit all those crazy balls out there to him, so it doesn’t seem all that different and you can let your ability take over and react instead of thinking about it.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It wasn’t quite Carl Hubbell at the 1934 All-Star Game, but Tommy Layne will never forget his first win.

Tommy Layne

Tommy Layne

It wasn’t quite Carl Hubbell at the 1934 All-Star Game, but Tommy Layne will never forget his first win.

The left-hander, who’s battling Brandon Workman for the final spot in the Red Sox bullpen, earned his first victory with the Padres in September of 2012, and it wasn’t a gimme.

Called upon to pitch for the eighth time in 10 days, Layne faced the Murderer’s Row of the Dodgers lineup in the 10th inning of a tie game: Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Hanley Ramirez.

Three strikeouts later, Lane was back in the dugout. The Padres then scored three in the 11th to take the 6-3 win and get Layne in the record book.

“I remember them all,” Layne said recently. “Going into that day, I think I was going on six straight days of pitching, so (manager) Buddy Black had  told me before the day even started, ‘We’re going to try to stay away from you if we can.’ So it wasn’t like I was checked out, but when we got to the ninth and I still hadn’t gotten into the game, I figured I wasn’t going to get into the game.”

Black needed to burn four relievers just to reach the 10th, however, so Layne got the call.

First up, the batter Layne considers his nemesis: Gonzalez.

“They’re all great, but Adrian is by far my toughest out,” Layne said. “It doesn’t matter where I throw it. In, out, up, down, he gets a piece of it. He’ll foul me off and stay alive. I ended up striking him out on a cutter that I made a slider over the middle of the plate. I went back and watched the video. His hole is down over the plate that he swings and misses. Instead of throwing a cutter away, I basically made my cutter look bigger and threw a slider down the middle.”

Gonzalez (1 for 4 against Layne lifetime) swung through it. “That was cool,” Layne said. “Once I got past him, I felt like, ‘OK, I can get through this inning.'”

He punched out Kemp swinging on a high fastball, and then set up Ramirez to look for something inside before freezing him with a backdoor slider for strike three.

Layne has since added three more wins ‘€“ they’re hard to come by for left-handed specialists ‘€“ but he’ll never forget his first.

“I didn’t have much,” Layne said, “but I threw it up there and ended up getting them. Adrian, Kemp, Hanley. It was the meat of the order. It was awesome.”

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So far, the Red Sox have gotten the news they were looking for in regards to Joe Kelly.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — So far, the Red Sox have gotten the news they were looking for in regards to Joe Kelly.

The Sox starter, who left his outing Monday with stiffness in his right biceps, came to JetBlue Park feeling better. While it is still uncertain if Kelly will make his scheduled start Sunday, Tuesday’s check-up suggested no MRI would be needed at the current time.

“He comes in and feels improved over yesterday,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “There’€™s still a little bit of soreness there but we’€™re going to get his arm moving with some light catch. He went through a full workup here today. There’€™s no imaging at this point recommended or required. So what this means in terms of his next turn is yet to be determined.”

Farrell added: “The next couple of days will determine where he’€™s going to be in terms of rotation. He’€™s scheduled to start on Sunday. We will get him off the mound prior to the next time he gets into a game. There will probably be a couple of days of some rest, some rehab and maybe some light throwing. If that extends him out the sixth day, that’€™s possible. But we’€™ll know more in the coming days.”

While Kelly’s injury was for all to see, the one Christian Vazquez has been dealing with had been kept quiet until Farrell’s media session Tuesday.

Vazquez hasn’t played since feeling some soreness in his throwing elbow after gunning down a baserunner in the Red Sox’ meeting with the Yankees Friday night.

The catcher did feel well enough to throw some Monday, but still isn’t at the point where he is comfortable re-entering games. Vazquez will get at-bats on the Fenway South back fields in the coming days.

“He’€™s got a little bit of soreness in his elbow so we backed him out of games,” the manager noted. “He’€™s going to get some at-bats over on the minor league side tomorrow and Thursday. But with almost three weeks still remaining in camp we don’€™t want to push this by any means and give this a chance to calm down.

“He threw yesterday but not to where he’€™s without thought, where he’€™s really cutting it loose. As well as he throws and as valuable as his arm is to him as a player and to us behind the plate, we’€™re just backing him down a couple of days.”

Farrell also was optimistic that Rusney Castillo — who hasn’t played since injuring his left oblique during the Red Sox’ game against Boston College — might be in the lineup Wednesday. Castillo told WEEI.com Monday he did feel 100 percent.

“He’€™s going to go through a full workout today, including throwing to the bases and I’€™ll get a chance to meet with him when he comes out of that,” Farrell said. “But we’€™re still targeting tomorrow.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Left-hander Dana Eveland is a depth option for the Red Sox out of the bullpen. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)FORT MYERS, Fla. – Dana Eveland is the definition of a journeyman.



FORT MYERS, Fla. — As Red Sox manager John Farrell pointed out after his team’s 4-3 win over the Mets Monday, any time a starter is forced to walk-off the mound in the middle of an outing there should be cause for concern.

Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As Red Sox manager John Farrell pointed out after his team’s 4-3 win over the Mets Monday, any time a starter is forced to walk-off the mound in the middle of an outing there should be cause for concern.

But in the case of Joe Kelly — who had to exit in the third inning after experiencing tightness in his right biceps — the Red Sox and the pitcher weren’t seemingly overly anxious.

“They kind of saw me shaking my arm more than usual, asked me what was wrong and I just said my biceps is a little tight and a little achy and it progressively got a little worse,” Kelly said, having had particular trouble throwing breaking balls. “They might want me to rest a little bit. Just a little bit of restriction in my lower biceps. See how it feels tomorrow, and play regular catch, hopefully.”

“He was experiencing some biceps soreness. Not uncommon for pitchers to experience some kind of soreness as we’€™re stretching him out and building up their pitch count,” Farrell noted. “I know it’€™s something Joe has dealt with in the past. It was a day his velocity wasn’€™t normal, which again, I think some of our starters are going through a little bit of a dead arm period. I know it affected him most after he tried to throw his breaking ball. After he threw that last pitch where he tried to get a little extra velocity you could see him have a little different action on the mound.

“At that time it was clearly time to get him out of the game. We’€™ll have a chance to re-evaluate him when he comes back tomorrow to see what treatment he might needs going forward or any adjustment to his overall schedule. We’€™ll find that out tomorrow.”

Kelly said he had dealt with this issue before and felt the biceps discomfort while warming up.

While none of the parties involved could say for sure, the chances of Kelly making his next start, Sunday against the Phillies, would seem in doubt considering the Sox’s cautious approach. It is still also unclear if an MRI will be needed, although the pitcher wasn’t anticipating undergoing any imaging.

“Any time a pitcher walks off the mound you’€™ve got to go through some steps of getting on a mound in a bullpen session and test it before you go back out there,” Farrell said. “We’€™ll get more information before he comes in tomorrow.”

Kelly, who was relegated to primarily throwing all fastballs before exiting, allowed three runs on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings.

“I’m fairly confident and honest with you guys that I think it’s not very much of a big deal at all,” he said. “They might make me rest a little bit. Right now my arm feels fine. It just was a little bit of restriction in the lower part of my biceps.”

– While Kelly obviously put a damper on the Red Sox’ day, there were some bright spots, including the pitching performances of Alexi Ogando and Steven Wright.

Ogando struck out two during his one inning of work, showing great life on his fastball. In three outings thus far, the righty has resembled the pitcher before having been hit with a rash of injuries over the past two seasons.

“Domination, pretty much. He looked good,” said Red Sox catcher Ryan Hannigan. “Good fastball command and an exceptional slider. Locked guys up and did his thing. It was pretty obvious.”

Wright, who would seem to be first in line if any current member of the starting rotation was sidelined, continued to impress. This time the knuckleballer threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk.

“It feels good, especially compared to where I was at last year at this point,” Wright said. “I was just trying to get healthy. For me, to just come in and basically do what I know how to do, which is throw quality knuckleballs over the plate and then whatever the team needs me to do I’€™m more than happy to do it, but the only way is to stay healthy.”

– Perhaps the ultimate feel-good story of the day for the Red Sox, however, came courtesy catcher Matt Spring.

The 30-year-old career minor leaguer hit a sixth-inning blast off highly-regarded Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard for a solo homer. While it simply goes in the books as a spring training home run, the moment meant so much more for No. 81.

“The most important thing is my son was watching at home. He’€™s two,” said Spring, who has played 11 minor-league seasons. “That’€™s the most important thing. But just taking advantage of opportunities. Anytime you can have a day like that whether it’€™s in spring training or whatever, it’€™s a good day to put it in the back of memory bank for when you’€™re not feeling good about yourself and pump yourself a little bit.”

When asked about Bo Spring’s attention to such television programs, like the one showing his dad hit a homer, he said, “I ranked over Mickey Mouse, so that’s great.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rusney Castillo is on the verge of re-entering spring training.

Rusney Castillo

Rusney Castillo

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rusney Castillo is on the verge of re-entering spring training.

The outfielder took batting practice for the first time since suffering a left oblique strain, Monday, and will likely play in a game sometime this week. (Castillo still wasn’t sure of the exact date for his return, saying through translator Adrian Lorenzo, “We’ve talked about some things, but nothing is finalized.”

The good news for Castillo and the Red Sox is that the 27-year-old has already gotten to the point where the ailment is no longer an issue.

“I would say I’m at 100 percent, but we’re going to ease our way into it,” he said.

Castillo has played in just one exhibition game thus far, getting three at-bats against Boston College.

He passed on that he does believe there is still ample time to show the organization his potential value on the Opening Day roster, but also understands the importance of being patient.

“It really hasn’t been that difficult just because I’ve been informed and I always thought health is priority No. 1 right now,” he said. “It’s a long season so there’s still time to recover and make sure I recover right and not rush it.”

Asked if he thought there was enough time for Castillo to be ready for Opening Day, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, “That I don’€™€™t know. He projects to be game ready by Wednesday, so he’€™€™s going to take live BP, and he’€™€™ll throw to bases tomorrow. He’€™€™s passed every baseball physical test that’€™€™s we’€™€™ve put him in front of to date. He’€™€™s responded well to the strain of the oblique so that’€™€™s our plan right now.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford