Chris Sale will be presented some unique challenges when pitching with the Red Sox. (Butch Dill/USA Today Sports)FORT MYERS, Fla. -- All signs point to Chris Sale being really good.



FORT MYERS, Fla. — He took a few ground balls. Made a couple of flips to first. But other than that, Hanley Ramirez wasn’t an all-in participant in the Red Sox’ infield drills Sunday morning at JetBlue Park.

Mitch Moreland figures to get the majority of innings at first base early in the season with Hanley Ramirez still nursing a bad right shoulder. (WEEI.com photo)

Mitch Moreland figures to get the majority of innings at first base early in the season with Hanley Ramirez still nursing a bad right shoulder. (WEEI.com photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — He took a few ground balls. Made a couple of flips to first. But other than that, Hanley Ramirez wasn’t an all-in participant in the Red Sox’ infield drills Sunday morning at JetBlue Park.

Along with his continued limited participation with the first baseman’s glove, it was also noticeable how much time Ramirez spent flexing and feeling his injured right shoulder. At one point trainer Paul Buchheit came over and listened as the infielder/designated hitter pointed to different parts of his affected area.

Saturday, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the plan remained to get Ramirez some action in the field before the end of spring training. And moments later, Ramirez told WEEI.com was optimistic, saying he could play all the remaining games at spring training games.

“We just have get our first baseman ready,” said Ramirez, referring to Mitch Moreland. “I’m ready to go.”

But Farrell’s tone Sunday, and Ramirez’s actions, suggested the plan to have Ramirez play first base against lefty starters might be put on hold to start the regular season.

“When he’s first ready,” Farrell said. “I would hope that would still happen in spring training. His play and availability at first is one of the keys to how our roster can function at its best. But until he’s ready to go out there, I can’t put him on the field.”

Asked what he thought the chances of Ramirez playing in the field at some point in spring training were, Farrell added, “I’m still hopeful but recognizing where we are on the calendar.”

The good news for the Red Sox is that Ramirez can still hit, which he has shown throughout the Grapefruit League season. Heading into Sunday’s game against Twins, who he was hitting cleanup against, the righty slugger was hitting .298 with a .912 OPS to go along with three home runs in 47 at-bats.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was hardly a surprise.

Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig were part of a group who was reassigned to the minor leagues Sunday morning, joining outfielder Brian Bogusevic, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Jake DePew and pitcher Hector Velazquez. Noe Ramirez, who made the Opening Day roster a year ago, was also optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Rusney Castillo (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was hardly a surprise.

Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig were part of a group who was reassigned to the minor leagues Sunday morning, joining outfielder Brian Bogusevic, infielder Matt Dominguez, catcher Jake DePew and pitcher Hector Velazquez. Noe Ramirez, who made the Opening Day roster a year ago, was also optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

So, has anything changed for Castillo and/or Craig? It depends.

In terms of their chances of finding significant time on the Red Sox roster, the duo’s plight remains the same. Craig is in the final year of his five-year, $31 million due, due to make $11 million this season, while Castillo is slated to make $10.5 million this season, with four more years left on a seven-year, $72.5 million deal.

As colleague John Tomase points out, it would cost the Red Sox $56,596 a day to keep Castillo on the 25-man roster. So a two-week stint with the big league club mean allocating nearly $800,000 to the outfielder.

What those numbers mean is that if the Red Sox wanted to carry either one of the two on the big league roster, it would put them over the luxury tax, opening the organization up for financial penalties Dave Dombrowski and Co. wouldn’t seem to view worth incurring.

Perhaps the biggest gain made by both players, however, is that they certainly didn’t hurt themselves when it comes to their perception within both the Red Sox and Major League Baseball.

In his 38 at-bats, Castillo hit .368 with a .911 OPS. Craig wasn’t quite as impressive, finishing at .250 with a .684 OPS, but did show a much more consistent ability to hit the ball hard than at any other time in his Red Sox’ career.

In the end, spring training didn’t change the narrative dramatically, but it might have at least not pushed both players totally off the radar (a fate that could have easily taken place).

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

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.