FORT MYERS, Fla.

Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The mystery of what is going to transpire when umpires start enforcing Major League Baseball‘s new rule of not allowing hitters to step out of the batter’s box isn’t a mystery to Rusney Castillo, at all.

As it turns out, Castillo has already gone through such a transition, along with the rest of those playing under the Baseball Federation of Cuba.

The Red Sox outfielder explained Thursday that in an effort to speed up the games (sound familiar) the governing body of Cuban baseball decided to enact the same rule that is creating so much buzz heading into the 2015 MLB season.

“The game used to be really long, but about two years ago they implemented the rule we’€™re trying to implement, with the hitter staying in the box,” Castillo said. “That sped the game up a little bit.

“It did mess with some hitters, but for me, if I’€™ve got to do it, I’€™ve got to do it and I didn’€™t think about all that much. It wasn’€™t all that difficult for me, personally.”

Unlike the proposed MLB regulation, where the penalty is a warning and a potential fine, the ramification of stepping out of the box in Cuba was a called strike.

(Cuban pitchers also are mandated to throw a pitch within an allotted time span, with somebody — although not publicly-viewed clock — monitoring the seconds. The payment for going over is a called ball.)

“The biggest complaint is that people like to take that time to readjust and refocus,” Castillo said. “It was just happening a little too quick, quicker than they wanted to. They wanted to control the tempo.

“It just took some time, but over the course of a season it just became normal. Now it’€™s just normal. I don’€™t know about a big difference, but it did make a difference.”

Watch the first few pitches of Castillo’s initial professional at-bat, and you can get an understanding of how he has learned to adjust in between offerings …

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — If all goes as planned, Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting this season.

Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Getty Images)

Shane Victorino is on track to return to switch-hitting in 2015. (Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — If all goes as planned, Shane Victorino will return to switch-hitting this season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Thursday that he and the staff have talked to the outfielder about the plan, which will include spring training at-bats from the left side of the plate.

Victorino gave up hitting left-handed late in the 2013 season when he injured his hip running into a wall while chasing a fly ball along the right field line.

“It’s likely that he hits left-handed in games,” Farrell said. “If you think back to ’13 late in the year, he switched solely to the right side because of some physical restrictions. With those being freed up now, the left side of the plate comes back into play.”

Farrell said the work will begin as soon as possible so Victorino can get up to game speed with left-handed hitting.

“Every guy is going to be a little bit different. He’s going to take all the extra work that he can physically tolerate. I think until we get into games, it’ll probably be a better read on how many number of at-bats left-handed it would require [in spring training]. But if you think about two years ago in ’13 in spring training, I don’t know if he got a hit in spring training. Open up in New York, he’s got three line drive base hits the first day of season. So again, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with that side of the plate, taking some pitches and taking some at-bats.

“What I would hate to see happen is that here’s a nine-year major league veteran who has switch-hit the entire time all of sudden be solely one-sided. There was a reason why he hit left-handed to begin with, and that was to better attack right-handed pitching. And that’s what’s he’s fortunately able to put himself in that position to do physically.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FORT MYERS, Fla.

John Farrell listens to David Ortiz make his case Thursday morning. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

John Farrell listens to David Ortiz make his case Thursday morning. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — While infield coach Brian Butterfield was going over bunt fielding drills with his pitchers and infielders Thursday morning outside JetBlue Park, John Farrell spent a good 20 minutes with David Ortiz.

The manager stood and listened to Ortiz reiterate what he told reporters on Wednesday about his concerns and complaints about the new rules designed to speed up play, designed specifically to keep batters like Ortiz in the batters box and keep them from slowing the game down. Ortiz was articulate and animated as always in relaying his feelings to the skipper.

And Farrell came away thinking everything will be just fine when the season gets underway.

“I think he’ll adhere to the rules,” Farrell said. “And I think anytime we’re going through some subtle changes or some adjustments to the pace of game or instant replay, there’s going to be some growing pains. We fully anticipate that. I think it’s important that we all give this a chance to come to fruition a little bit and see how it may or may not affect the flow of a game or an individual routine at the plate. And I think that’s what’s important here, is that there’s a personal routine at the plate or on the mound that is part of the natural flow of the game. Some might consider that flow slow but I think that’s important that it’s preserved because that’s what puts a player, hitter or pitcher, in the right frame of mind to execute what he’s trying to get done.”

There was a report Wednesday night, after Ortiz’s very public comments, that MLB will not only consider aggressively administering $500 fines but will consider suspensions for repeat offenders of the pace rules. Does Farrell think Ortiz placed a target on his back with his outburst?

“No, not at all,” Farrell said. “I think the one thing that David has done is he’s an All-Star player and he’s a guy that is about playing the game the right way. I don’t think he’s putting a target on his back. He spoke his mind and that’s where we don’t make this too much of an issue because I think it’ll end up being a subtlety inside of the game. But this is no different than when they had fines and potential suspensions for relievers coming out of the bullpen that took too long. We dealt with our guys that were a little bit slower than normal in a way that you have to remind them of some things as the game unfolds.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things

Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to talk all things Red Sox and also to discuss the recent MLB pace of play changes. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

A major topic of discussion in the early days of spring training has been the recent pace of play changes in an effort to speed up the game. Cherington feels it is going to be a process, as is almost anything when it comes to implementing changes.

“I think as with anything when there is change it’s a process — and we have spring training to work through that,” said Cherington. “There’s a lot of smart people who have looked at this issue and feel strongly that pace of play is a critical issue for the game, for the greater good of the game. We all have a stake in that. Now it’s a question of how to improve that, how to execute it on the new policy so that it actually works and everyone gets comfortable. That’s a process. We have to use spring training to communicate, to educate, to allow players to feel what it feels like and frankly, our staff has that built into spring training. Since we’re very early in spring training, some of that communication hasn’t happened yet.”

Part of the process is a pitch clock in minor league games. The general manager feels pitchers will end up liking it after adjusting to it, as it will help them establish a good pace.

“It’s a matter of practicing it — this is something we will do at minor league camp — you start throwing your bullpens with a clock so you can get used to it,” Cherington said. “Once you get used to doing that, they’ve left enough time to get the ball and deliver a pitch. It’s a matter of getting in the habit of doing it. I think a lot of pitchers will find that once they get into that habit they will actually like it because it keeps them on a good pace.”

Cherington made an interesting comparison when it comes to Cuban athletes (like Yoan Moncada, who he couldn’t comment directly on as the signing isn’t official) compared to American athletes — the best Cuban athletes are playing baseball, as where in America the best American athletes are playing football.

“I think the thing about the Cuban player market, which is different than just about any that we look at, is baseball in Cuba seems to be capturing a type of athlete that baseball is not capturing in any other place,” said Cherington. “You can say [Yasiel] Puig just looks different, that’s because he is different. If he was growing up in Louisiana he would probably be playing in the SEC. If you’re growing up in Cuba you’re playing baseball, you’re not getting funneled into football programs.

“Some of the players that are coming out, they look different because they are different and if they have been training that long and training their skills, it’s pretty exciting what they can do on the field. We think there are guys, Moncada included, not to speak officially on him, that are capable of doing a lot of different stuff on the field just because they are are different type of athlete.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, check out weei.com/redsox.

On John Farrell declaring Shane Victorino starting right fielder if healthy: “I feel the same way. I think John said the right thing. Given what we’ve all seen Shane Victorino do, when he’s healthy, he ought to be the right fielder if he’s that player. That is how we see it. He’s more proven and we know the impact he makes in right field when he’s feeling good and right now he’s feeling good. He’s more proven than a number of other players out there.”

On concerns with 39-year-old Koji Uehara: “Not really. Look, anything can happen, that doesn’t mean anything he’s done the last two years, or for most of the last two years is automatically going to keep happening. But, after we had a chance to look at it, we were with him at the end of the season, we felt good about the physical part of things. We felt like what had happened in late August and early September was a clear result of something that was going on that was going to be resolved and we could manage. We know this guy. He’s incredibly accountable, diligent, he takes care of himself. A pro’s pro. There wasn’t that big of a concern and we were able to put it together and that was an important first step in our offseason.”

On if he’s concerned with TV/radio ratings: “In a way it is my business because I work for my bosses and we’re all in this together. We want to win games. We believe winning games will drive [ratings]. We also know that despite the real ups and downs of the last three years, if you look at the last 15 years, it’s been a successful run. The Red Sox have been very fortunate. Our fans are amazing. They keep coming out. There is still amazing interest in the team. We can’t take that for granted We have to continue to hold on to that. Most of it is with winning games, but if there are another things that come with it too.”

Are weight clauses in contracts against MLB rules (Pablo Sandoval): “I don’t know that they are against the rules. It’s not something we focused on at all. What we talked about with Pablo and again this spring, it’s not a number of pounds. Putting himself in a position to be out there at third base and be able to do the things he needs to do defensively to stay on the field as much as possible — how do we accomplish that? Let us help you accomplish that. Let our training staff, and conditioning staff, let all those people help you accomplish that.”

On free agent pitchers James Shields and Max Scherzer: “Never made formal offers. We had conversations with both. They’re all good pitchers so it never got to a point — when you make an offer you sort of have to feel like there is a legitimate chance for it to gain traction and through the conversations we had we never felt that way.”

On Red Sox’ offense: “The deeper group of offense talent we have the the better. Again, there is still going to be young players amongst that group. We hope and expect that the group will be deeper and give John [Farrell] more options. Exactly what the lineup looks like on April 6, or whenever that is, will be determined, but hopefully we have better options.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to discuss the upcoming season and what he did in the offseason to try and bounce back from

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts checked in with Dennis & Callahan live from Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday morning to discuss the upcoming season and what he did in the offseason to try and bounce back from a difficult 2014 season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Last season was a difficult year for Bogaerts, as in his first full season in the majors he hit .240 with an on-base percentage of .297. He struggled even more with runners in scoring position, hitting just .153 for the year. Bogaerts admitted he lost confidence during the year, but 2015 is a new year.

“Yeah, a little bit — going really bad for two months, I mean extremely bad,” Bogaerts said of losing confidence. “Trying to have confidence everyday coming to the park was pretty tough. This year is a new year, I feel much better. I feel much more confident in myself so, it’s something I definitely learned, no matter how tough the situation is it’s just keep your head up.”

Bogaerts switched positions a few times during the year — moving from shortstop to third base when the team signed Stephen Drew, and then back to shortstop once Drew was traded at the trade deadline. He said the changing positions had an effect on him mentally.

“Maybe it messed with me mentally a little bit, but I guess that was my fault being young and not understanding they really got him to help the team,” Bogaerts said. “We needed someone to come in and play either short or third because [Will] Middlebrooks was injured.”

The shortstop spent much of the winter in Arizona working out for roughly four hours a day. Focusing on building muscle was one of his major goals, as he said his body wore down last year.

“Really gained a lot of muscle,” said Bogaerts. “Trying to be fast, quick. Last year towards the All-Star game my body started wearing down and I think [that was why] I was struggling so much, I was mentally weak and it just dragged on me physically and stuff like that. It just went downhill from there. The All-Star break boosted me up a little but and then it went back down.”

The 22-year-old learned a lot from his first full season in the majors, but feels his experiences last year will only help him moving forward.

“It’s a really tough game,” said Bogaerts. “Especially in the Boston market — a lot of media attention, especially after winning the World Series, a lot of eyes were on us. I think this year will probably be the same because of all the new acquisitions that we have. You just have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. You go through your ups and downs. It’s definitely easy to lose your confidence.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable