FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jonathan Papelbon is well aware of how he is perceived.

Whenever the time of game controversy comes up, he is one of the pitchers who is identified as one of the chief culprits in slowing the games down. And lately, as the Phillies closer has been reminded, there has been a lot of talk on the subject.

“As soon as this happens [former Red Sox bullpen coach] Gary Tuck calls me up and he says, ‘I just got off the phone with Joe Torre and we’re going to implement the Jonathan Papelbon Rule his year,'” said Papelbon of Major League Baseball‘s new rule changes. “He said, ‘We’re going to have clocks, and batters box rules, and this and that.'”

Papelbon has learned to alter his approach, adhering to the league’s quest to hurry things up. But he also offers his own solution to the problem.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” Papelbon explained. “I’ve been able to make adjustments. I haven’t struggled with adjustments. But its’ not going to effect the way I pitch. I just think, and I know I’m a pitcher saying this, if you want to speed the game up, tell the umpire to raise their right hand more. There are other ways to do it other than trying to get in the way of the game. There’s a reason why there’s never been a time clock on this game.”

While Papelbon has tried to hurry things up, he certainly hasn’t been one who has seen the need for shorter games. In 2010 he offered this explanation: “‘€œHave you ever gone to watch a movie and thought, ‘€˜Man, this movie is so good I wish it would have never ended.’€™ That’€™s like a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why would you want it to end?”

When reminded of the quote, the closer nodded his head, adding, “You can’t win an Academy Award for an hour and 10 minute movie.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s Matt Harvey Day at JetBlue Park.

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s Matt Harvey Day at JetBlue Park.

The Red Sox‘ game against the Mets Monday is allowed a bit more spice thanks to New York’s ace getting the start against the Sox’ regulars. And just for good measure, highly-regarded hurler Noah Syndergaard was slated to follow Harvey.

(It already hasn’t been a good day for the Mets, with news that one of their other top pitchers, Zack Wheeler, has a torn elbow ligament.)

“If they want to give him up, we would be certainly welcome,” joked Farrell of Harvey.

For the Red Sox, Joe Kelly gets the start, with Steven Wright, Edwin Escobar, Edward Mujica, Alexi Ogando, Dalier Hinojosa and Junichi Tazawa following.

– There was some buzz in camp about how Koji Uehara’s spring training performances haven’t been lights out, with the closer allowing runs in two of his three outings.

Uehara’s most recent hiccup was somewhat explained away by Farrell due to the reliever prioritizing his cutter, a pitch he previously has barely implemented.

Here was Koji explaining his recent spring training experimentation:

Are you working on it more this year? Uehara: “A little bit more because I feel a little bit stronger of a need to learn a new pitch.”

Why now? Uehara: “I feel the hitters are getting a hang of my repertoire, which I feel I need to expand.”

How do you think it’s coming along? Uehara: “I can’t really say if it’s getting better or not. There’s good days and bad days.”

When did you decide to do this? Uehara: “I’ve been working on it consistently going back to my days in Japan. But this is probably the most I’ve worked on it.”

Do you think this is something you’ll start using? “Yes.”

– Rusney Castillo might see game action as soon as Wednesday, taking batting practice for the first time since injuring his left oblique Monday.

“That I don’€™t know,” said Farrell when asked if Castillo would be ready for Opening Day. “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.”

The Sox manager reiterated that the team hasn’t closed the door on the outfield competition despite Mookie Betts’ emergence and Castillo’s injury.

– Farrell said the organization hasn’t decided if Edwin Escobar will work as a starter or reliever if sent to the minor leagues. The lefty won’t work as a starting pitcher in major league camp, but has intrigued the staff.

– When asked about Robbie Ross and Mitchell Boggs, Farrell offered similar evaluations, suggesting there was work to do.

Ross, the pitcher acquired from Texas for Anthony Ranaudo, does have options, potentially allowing for more time to regain his 2013 form while working in the minors.

“He probably hasn’€™t shown the finish to his cutter, particularly getting the ball in on right-handers,” Farrell said. “He’€™s going to throw in a minor league game here [Monday]. We’€™re trying to get our arms around ‘€¦ He went from a very good reliever in his first year in Texas to a starters role last year. Sometimes the stuff doesn’€™t play up as much in a starters role as it does in a shorter stint coming out of the bullpen. Our goal and our approach with him is to get him back to the bullpen, hoping to regain that performance level and the overall stuff and we’€™re still in the process of that.”

Boggs, who has an opt-out on April 4, has gotten good results, but apparently needs to take another step in order to enter into legitimate competition for a big league spot.

“A similar situation to Robbie Ross where we’re trying to regain previous form. This is a guy who flew the minor leagues as a starter in St. Louis and then was moved to the bullpen, became a very good closer for them. We’re just trying to recapture some of that. He clearly pitches without fear. It’s just how we evaluate the overall stuff.

– Farrell said that the Red Sox wouldn’t necessarily prioritize a pitcher who could pitch multiple innings despite a bullpen full of one-inning relievers. The manager had high praise for Tommy Layne, who would seem to be competition for the bullpen’s final spot with the likes of Brandon Workman.

– Here is the Red Sox’ lineup for Monday: Mookie Betts CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, Hanley Ramirez LF, Pablo Sandoval 3B, Mike Napoli 1B, Shane Victorino RF, Xander Bogaerts SS, Ryan Hanigan C.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

Jonathan Papelbon has his sights set on both Mariano Rivera and Coopertown. (Getty Images)CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Remember Jonathan Papelbon? Well, he's got a message in case you forgot.



Blake Swihart is a future star the Red Sox won't risk trading. (Getty Images)Hope the Phillies enjoyed the firsthand look at Blake Swihart. It's as close as they're ever going to get.



CLEARWATER, Fla.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The day began with the media surrounding Blake Swihart in the visitors clubhouse at Bright House Field, asking questions that, for the most part, had something to do with the catcher being part of trade rumors involving the team the Red Sox would ultimately drop an 11-4 decision to Sunday afternoon, the Phillies.

(To read all of Swihart’s and Red Sox manager John Farrell‘s comments on the issue, click here.)

It ended with one of the Red Sox’ pitchers for the day, Justin Masterson ending his media briefing with a reference to all the attention.

“You guys talk about him getting traded to Philly?” Masterson said. “‘Is this a really big game for you? If you rake in spring today, you will be a Philadelphia Phillie!'” Congratulations!'”

Swihart did his part, raising his spring average to .538 with a 2-for-3 day.

The same couldn’t be said for the two members of the Red Sox’ starting rotation making appearances against Philadelphia, Masterson and Wade Miley. The two combined to allow 10 runs on 13 hits and five walks over 6 1/3 innings.

Masterson started the game and immediately had difficulty finding a proper arm slot, or proper velocity. It took the righty a full inning before touching 90 mph, ultimately maxing out at 91.

“I finally got to the arm slot,” he said. “We were just a little off trying to find it out there. Going a whole year of not really doing the right stuff, it’s going to be this time in spring trying to make sure we get back to where we need to be. Once it got into that slot, I felt so much more power, so I was able to get to it. That’€™s where I was overthrowing in the last inning as I got tired, but I wanted to feel that same intensity. The arm strength is there, and it’s progressing well. I’m just flying open a little bit, a little bit tired, but still kept the same velocity per se throughout the last two innings, which to me says a lot of good things about the arm strength getting there and building back up.”

Masterson was particularly worn out by the Phillies lefty hitters, allowing a pair of home runs. He ultimately finished his 3 1/3-inning outing by giving up six runs on seven hits.

The starter came away with a healthy dose of optimism.

“It’s not even a comparison,” Masterson said when asked to contrast how he feels now compared to a year ago. “My body feels tremendously great. My shoulder feels good; I wouldn’€™t say tremendously great but good and it’s getting to the great spot. That’€™s what’s so good, we’re building up the arm strength. Those are the things that get me. Today we had the effort level for the last two but we were a little off. As we continue to get better, that will come. I’m really really excited especially compared to last year.

“For me, I’m breaking some habits that maybe began all because of last year with the things I was dealing with, with a few injuries. So now breaking those now and really finding it again. Now that we’re able to find it and get back to it, especially within a game, that’€™s monumental. In case you maybe get to a point where I’m not feeling it in warmups, now another checkpoint. This is how we get to it, this is what we need to do, and carry that into playing catch and my bullpen to really feel it, so that when I get into a game it just becomes natural. It’s reteaching the muscles. Muscle memory ‘€” that’€™s what the game is.”

Miley didn’t fare much better, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks over his three innings.

“It’s a big step back,” the lefty said. “Wasn’t very efficient at all. Didn’t locate. Didn’t make pitches. Put myself into some very bad situations. 2-0, especially with lefties. Didn’t do a very good job against the lefties. One of those ones you just want to forget about. A couple steps backwards right there, but it’s all right. It’s spring training. Better now than later. Move on and go from there.”

– One of the few highlights for the Red Sox was Daniel Nava’s two-run homer in the first inning, coming off of Philadelphia starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. The Cuban righty pitcher, who the Red Sox had some interest in when he was a free agent, lived in the mid 90’s while going 3 1/3 innings. He is vying for the fifth spot in the Phillies’ rotation.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The excitement of spring training is a little different this time around for Grady Sizemore.

The outfielder who showed the Red Sox enough last spring to get an Opening Day start despite not having played major league ball for two years, is now with the Phillies, vying for a job in left field.

A year ago, Sizemore was a topic of conversation every day. Now he sits almost anonymously in the Philadelphia clubhouse, just trying to build off a 2014 campaign which saw the 32-year-old play in a combined 112 games with the Sox and Phils.

“There were moments where you feel like it’s coming back and then there were moments where you kind of feel a little lost,” said Sizemore, who hit .216 with a .612 OPS in 52 games with the Red Sox before being released. “I think it’s more of being away from the game for so long. There were some bright spots and some down spots. Just being able to find that comfort zone where you’re not going through those long stretches where you feel you don’t have it.”

Sizemore has struggled thus far in camp, with his average dipping .105 after going 0-for-2 in the Phillies’ 11-4 win over the Red Sox. It’s not exactly the display he put on while sending a buzz through Sox camp a year ago.

“Pretty similar,” said Sizemore when asked how he felt compared to this time last year. “Obviously I feel like made some gains physically. It’s just nice to have some time underneath you, building more reps. I’m just building off of that and moving forward.

“I felt like I was as in a good a position I could have got in, having not had a spring training in so many years. It was just more a matter of getting the reps. It was one of those things of just needing the reps and time.”

After being cut loose by the Red Sox, Sizemore did bounce back somewhat when joining the Phillies. The lefty hitter played in 60 games with Philadelphia, hitting .253 with a .701 OPS.

Yet, even after working his way back with the help of Red Sox physical therapist Dan Dyrek, and getting a full big league season under his belt, Sizemore hasn’t locked into where he needs to be to feel fully confident.

“It’s just a matter of seeing the reps, seeing pitches and getting the work in. I still don’t really know where the norm is for me physically,” said Sizemore, who dropped a line-drive while trying to make a sliding catch in the fourth inning. “You’re just trying to continue to get gains and improve from the baseball side and the physical side. I still feel like I’m working through some things and there’s still improvements to be made, but I just don’t know where that ceiling is.”

No matter what transpires this spring or during the regular seaosn, Sizemore points out he will ever have a soft spot in his heart for the Red Sox organization.

“I just loved it there,” he said. “There’s nothing like playing at Fenway, playing for that team, that organization. I definitely wish I could have been more consistent and stayed there and had more success there. But I’m happy to be here now. I think it’s a great opportunity for me. A great organization to be a part of. I’m grateful for my time there, and now I’m just looking forward.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It was hard not to see the obvious storyline when catcher Blake Swihart made the trip to Clearwater this morning for a game against the Phillies — he’s being dangled in person as trade bait for left-hander Cole Hamels.

Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

It was hard not to see the obvious storyline when catcher Blake Swihart made the trip to Clearwater this morning for a game against the Phillies — he’s being dangled in person as trade bait for left-hander Cole Hamels.

“I think it’s funny, just like when you guys came over you started laughing,” Swihart told reporters. “I think people are reading into it. It’s going to be fun.”

But Red Sox manager John Farrell wanted to make one thing clear.

“This isn’t a showcase,” Farrell said.

The manager explained Swihart’s presence in decidedly uncontroversial terms.

“So, Blake’s here because of the rotation that we’ve been looking for with position players the last 4-5 days,” he said. “Get them a couple of games back-to-back, and his second day falls on today.”

That will do little to quell the conspiracy theorists who want to see the team trade a package of prospects including Swihart for Hamels, the three-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP who would immediately give the Red Sox a proven ace atop their rotation.

“The most I got yesterday was a tweet saying, ‘Hmmm, Blake Swihart is playing against the Phillies,'” Swihart said.  “That was the craziest thing.”

The only problem with viewing Swihart as trade bait is that it ignores the fact the Red Sox have little inclination in dealing the switch hitter, who might be the best catching prospect in baseball. He has made real strides this camp, Farrell said.

“He’s more comfortable with the environment, which you would expect,” Farrell said. “A guy in his second year is a little bit more of a known on his behalf, what he’s coming into. He spent some time in Triple A last year, so he knows in his own mind that his opportunity is approaching. When that happens, obviously, it remains to be seen. I just think he’s gaining confidence, he’s gaining strength. Last year’s experience at the Triple A level was important with him in dealing with some veteran pitchers and getting some more insight into game-calling. There’s always going to be maintenance. The receiving side of things is a work in progress that’s getting better by the day. He’s a bright-looking young player, but there’s still work to be done.”

Swihart takes the trade talk in stride.

“It’s kind of hard not to hear it,” he said. “At the end of the day, though, I play for the Red Sox and I want to play for the Red Sox. I like being here and I like playing here. It’s an honor that other teams think highly of you. Ultimately, I want to be here and to play for this team. Anything I can do to help this team is what I want to do.”

 

Blog Author: 
John Tomase