SARASOTA, Fla. — Another year, another key bullpen acquisition seemingly headed to the disabled list before Opening Day.

Last year, it was right-hander Carson Smith, who was hurt early in spring training and ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox hope he’s ready to return this June.

Tyler Thornburg

Tyler Thornburg

SARASOTA, Fla. — Another year, another key bullpen acquisition seemingly headed to the disabled list before Opening Day.

Last year, it was right-hander Carson Smith, who was hurt early in spring training and ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox hope he’s ready to return this June.

On Monday, it was Tyler Thornburg’s turn. The right-hander, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, was scratched from an expected appearance against the Orioles with what an upper right trapezius spasm.

After the game, both manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that Thornburg will almost certainly open the year on the DL.

“During the pregame throwing program, he felt like there was some spasm that was taking place in the trap area,” Farrell said. “It wasn’t shoulder-related. So we scratched him from the outing here today. Sent him back early to gain some treatment, and he’s set to have further testing tomorrow.

“It’s hard to say right now he’d have enough frequency of outings and pitch count to build up and to be ready by next Monday. We haven’t made that determination yet. Tomorrow is going to hopefully give us more information on what we’re actually dealing with here. What the root cause to a spasm is, that I don’t know at this point.”

Thornburg has been limited by shoulder discomfort since his last appearance in a big league game on March 1. In two appearance covering just 1 1/3 innings, he allowed nine runs (7 earned). He shut it down to strengthen his shoulder, but hasn’t bounced back as hoped.

The Red Sox acquired him from the Brewers over the winter for third baseman Travis Shaw, infielder Mauricio Dubon, and right-hander Josh Pennington in the hopes that he could take over the eighth inning.

He went 8-5 with a 2.15 ERA last year, by far his best season. He struck out 90 in 67 innings and recorded 13 saves.

This isn’t his first arm issue. Early in his career, he nearly underwent Tommy John surgery before deciding he could return with rest and rehab.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Christian Vazquez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Christian Vazquez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A big part of the news emanating from Red Sox camp Monday was Blake Swihart being sent to the minors. It wasn’t a shock, considering he had options, and Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon did not.

But it did allow Vazquez to reflect on how far he has come in making his first Opening Day roster.

Two years ago, the catcher was saddled with the news that he would need Tommy John surgery. Then, last spring training, that same surgically-repaired elbow was still not allowing for the kind of impression needed to make the big league club.

But when looking back at the path he took to get to this point, Vazquez chooses to identify a time in 2009 — one year after he was taken in the ninth round — that could have been his defining moment, but wasn’t.

Playing for short-season, Single-A Lowell, Vazquez found himself as the Spinners’ third string catcher, with his 5-foot-9 frame tilting the scales at 215 pounds.

“I went like one month where I didn’t play in Lowell,” he remembered. “That year I was thinking they were going to release me. I wasn’t playing and hit like .123.”

The Red Sox sent Vazquez to their academy in the Dominican Republic to “get skinny and strong,” according to Vazquez. It paid off. After making Single-A Greenville in 2010, the catcher returned to become the Drive’s everyday backstop in 2011, hitting 18 home runs while throwing out better than 40 percent of his attempted basestealers.

“That year I started thinking I could do this,” he said. “I can play this game and be good. That’s where I figured it out. It changed my mind.”

It worked out.

Vazquez has gotten his body fat down to 12 percent (from 19 percent when he signed), and has shown the kind of arm that had first put him on the precipice of the big leagues two spring trainings ago.

“I’ve learned to take care of my body, my arm. That’s my money here. Taking care of myself, that’s my goal, every day,” Vazquez said. “I feel strong. I feel great. I’m excited.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s easy to assume that if you’re pitching in the late innings of a Major League Baseball game, and it’s close, there has been some importance placed on your abilities.

Joe Kelly (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Joe Kelly (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s easy to assume that if you’re pitching in the late innings of a Major League Baseball game, and it’s close, there has been some importance placed on your abilities.

Heading into the regular season, Joe Kelly figures to be living that life, having been identified as the Red Sox’ eighth inning reliever, at least until Tyler Thornburg gets up to speed.

But Kelly, a closer in college, offered a fairly interesting take on why those high-leverage innings might feel a little different. And it has little to do with protecting a lead.

“When you go into the end of a ballgame there’s just a little bit different feeling. Fans are into the game more. They start to narrow down their focus,” he told WEEI.com Monday morning. “Those middle innings, or at the beginning of the game, they’re seeing their friends, talking or eating. But after the eighth inning there are no more beer sales so I’m pretty sure they’re watching the game. They get louder and more intense, which feeds onto the player. They get more focus because the extracurricular stuff isn’t going on.

“It’s something I’m excited for and I think I can do it.”

Kelly is almost through his first spring training as a relief pitcher, having pitched in eight Grapefruit League games. After a strong start, he has run into some difficulties in two of his last three outings, walking three Twins Sunday.

But overall, Kelly explained that he has few concerns heading into the real games next week.

“It’s been smoother than I thought it would be,” said Kelly, who power-ranked his pitches by identifying his fastball being in the best shape, followed by the slider, curveball and then changeup.

“I thought with the multiple outings, not getting as much off time as a starter, I thought I would get a little more sore than I have been. Knock on wood, I’m feeling good and haven’t been getting sore like I thought I would coming into camp.”

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Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Opening Day is one week away and the Red Sox are trimming their roster.

On Monday morning, the team optioned catcher Blake Swihart and shortstop Deven Marrero to Triple-A Pawtucket. Also, the Sox sent catcher Dan Butler and first baseman Sam Travis to minor league camp.

Blake Swihart was optioned on Monday. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Blake Swihart was optioned on Monday. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)

Opening Day is one week away and the Red Sox are trimming their roster.

On Monday morning, the team optioned catcher Blake Swihart and shortstop Deven Marrero to Triple-A Pawtucket. Also, the Sox sent catcher Dan Butler and first baseman Sam Travis to minor league camp.

Swihart is the biggest name, but it was pretty much assumed he would start the year in Pawtucket given he is the only catcher with options.

Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez will be the two catchers on the roster.

Travis is a name to watch as he missed the majority of last season with an ACL tear, but the former second-round pick could potentially be added to the big league roster at some point this season. Some view him as the first baseman of the future and was the reason why the organization didn’t sign one to a big deal this offseason.

The Red Sox host the Pirates next Monday in the season opener.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

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