FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox break camp on Saturday and, as of Monday, Shane Victorino remains the starting right-fielder.

What about Rusney Castillo?

"To be determined," manager John Farrell said.

When camp opened, Farrell said that Victorino would be the team’s starting right fielder if healthy. Monday night, he was in the starting lineup in right field for the third consecutive game. Until this weekend, he had not played two straight games in right.

Is he healthy?

"Yes, he’s healthy," Farrell said. "if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be in the lineup."

So he’s the everyday right-fielder?

"As of today," Farrell said. "So there’s no reason to back away from what was previouslv stated."

The Sox still have seven rostered outfielders still in camp. At the outset, Farrell said he envisioned all seven -- Allen Craig, Hanley Ramirez, Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Castillo and Mookie Betts -- to still be with the organization when the season started. Is that still the case?

"I don't have anything to suggest otherwise," Farrell said.

Does he have a better understanding of how the mix will work?

"No," he said.

Is that an issue?

"We have a roster decision to make that's looming by the time we break on Saturday," Farrell said, "and there's nothing that has been definitively made.''

The only definite starters in the outfield are Ramirez in left and Betts in center. Jackie Bradley Jr., batting .385 this spring, will likely open the season in Pawtucket to get everyday at-bats.

That leaves Castillo, Nava, Craig and Victorino. Castillo missed two weeks in camp with a strained oblique muscle, but has been a dynamic player since his return. He has a couple of home runs and eye-catching defense, including a diving catch and throw to the plate that cut down the potential go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

Victorino, 34, missed some time early in camp with leg soreness, the result, he said, of pushing it too hard in his first game. He is batting .179 with one extra-base hit in 28 at-bats. He is batting exclusively right-handed because he was experiencing some of the same left side issues that sidelined him last season.

Victorino had a slow spring in 2013 but was a huge contributor to the Sox title run.

In the three seasons since 2004 in which the Sox won the World Series, they got off to terrific starts: 15-6 in 2004, 16-8 in 2007, 18-8 in 2013. It could be argued that Castillo gives the Sox a better shot at winning than Victorino.

"Well, we've got a week to go," Farrell said. "Today is Vic's third consecutive game and it's abundantly clear the last two days, and the game prior, that his game intensity and game speed have picked up dramatically. He feels good again today in the early work he's doing. He's in the lineup tonight, so again, there's no roster decision today."

Nava, because he is a switch-hitter on a roster that tilts right-handed, looks likely to make the club. There have been rumors that the Sox were looking to move Craig, but he is under a team-friendly contract and could be in contention to start at first base next season, depending on whether the Sox re-sign Mike Napoli.

Victorino is owed $13 million on the last year of a three-year, $39 million deal. It has been suggested that the Sox could eat the final year of that deal. That's an option not under discussion by the Sox. The contract makes trading Victorino problematic.

So if Craig and Victorino both make the club, that leaves sending Castillo to the minors at the start of the season as the only option left.

On Monday, while Victorino was taking batting practice, Jay-Z was blasting on the stadium PA.

Forever young, I wanna be forever young

Do you really want to live forever?

Forever and ever ...

Sandy Leon excited about new opportunity with Red Sox

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few minutes after catcher Sandy Leon was fitted for a Boston Red Sox cap, received his new jerseys and met his new teammates -- including an animated conversation with Pablo Sandoval -- Christian Vazquez was spotted outside the clubhouse doing an agility drill, surrounded only by a team trainer.

Things never stay the same with any sports franchise. Somebody’s always coming and somebody’s always going.

While Vazquez goes on the 60-day disabled list and heads to a Wednesday visit with Dr. James Andrews to discuss his injured throwing elbow, Leon gets used to a new team after being traded by the Washington Nationals -- the only team he’s ever known. The Venezuelan native signed with the Nationals as an amateur free agent in 2007 and made his major-league debut five years later.

Leon was out of options and unlikely to break camp with the Nationals, but he’s also leaving a team that is a favorite to win the World Series.

“This morning, I wasn’t expecting this,” he said, “and after 20 minutes, ‘Hey, you got traded.’ It feels kind of weird, but I feel good. I feel just happy to be here.”

Leon, 26, said he hasn’t been told whether he’s backing up Ryan Hanigan or starting the season in Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s just waiting for it to all play out.

“I think it’s going to be good,” he said. “I’m really positive. I just want to play and help the team win and get to the World Series. That’s what I want.”

Red Sox in 'state of flux' as team sorts out the catcher position

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good evening from the Fort, where the Boston Red Sox were in a "state of flux" -- manager John Farrell's depiction of the scenario on Sunday -- and are even more so Monday after the team acquired catcher Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals.

The Red Sox placed starting catcher Christian Vazquez (right elbow sprain) on the 60-day disabled list Monday and will send him to Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday to see renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.

Ryan Hanigan takes over as the starter, and now they have to figure out what to do with Leon, journeyman Humberto Quintero and Blake Swihart, the top catching prospect in baseball.

Based on Farrell's comments Monday before the game against the Minnesota Twins, Leon -- who is out of options and is on the team's 40-man roster -- will likely slide into the backup role. Quintero, a non-roster spring invitee, and Swihart will be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket.

"I can't deny that that's a factor," Farrell said of the roster situations. "It's probably the same reason why he (Leon) became available to us. So that's a factor in all of this, particularly when you start to look at trying to build depth. That's not to take anything away from Humberto because he's done a very good job for us."

Swihart appears headed to Pawtucket simply to gain more seasoning, since he's played just 18 games in Triple-A.

"The view is that with a young player like Blake or other guys, we prefer to get them on a little bit of a roll at the minor-league level before they come to us," Farrell said. "There's also the need to continue to refine the receiving side of things. Now, he's gotten quite a bit of opportunity here in camp. He's shown well, I think, but just in the big picture, I think we can probably all benefit by [Swihart] playing every day and continuing to work on those developmental areas that are there."

Leon will make his Red Sox debut in Port Charlotte Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He will wear No. 3, formerly worn by catcher David Ross.

Losing Vazquez, meanwhile, might be more significant than many imagine.

"It's a young guy that's extremely talented -- a lot to like about him as a person and what he showed in the 55 games or so that he caught for us last year," Farrell said. "The time missed will interrupt his development at the major-league level. What I mean by that is just his overall game-calling -- the running of the game, which has been solid. There's always going to be things he can learn. That's going to be interrupted at this point. So it's a blow to us, it's a blow to him, and we've got to support him."

Here are some other notes and the lineup for today's game:

Pitcher Matt Barnes came down with food poisoning Monday and will be scratched from Tuesday's appearance."I can tell you he'll throw in bullpen before he gets back in a game," Farrell said. "We're not going to risk anything as far as fluid levels. No, we'll make sure he gets his legs back before he gets back in a game."

Bullpen pitchers Anthony Varvaro, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica and Tommy Layne will go Tuesday for first four or five innings, and Keith Couch will follow them with a multiple-inning stint.


Mookie Betts, CF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Hanley Ramirez, LF

Pablo Sandoval, 3B

Mike Napoli, 1B

Shane Victorino, RF

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Humberto Quintero, C

Justin Masterson, RHP


Danny Santana, SS

Brian Dozier, 2B

Joe Mauer, 1B

Torii Hunter, RF

Kennys Vargas, DH

Trevor Plouffe, 3B

Oswaldo Arcia, LF

Kurt Suzuki, C

Jordan Schafer, CF

Kyle Gibson, RHP

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Want a useful barometer on when we might see Blake Swihart make his big league debut?

Take a look at the path of Baltimore’s three-time All-Star catcher, Matt Wieters.

Like Swihart, Wieters was a switch-hitting catcher regarded as the Orioles’ No. 1 prospect entering the 2009 season. Wieters turned 23 that May; Swihart turns 23 on April 3.

Entering the 2009 season, Wieters had not played an inning of Triple-A ball. Swihart played 92 games in Double-A Portland last season, then an additional 18 games for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Wieters played 39 games and had 163 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, catching in 27 games for the Tides. He was promoted on May 29, 2009, to the big leagues.

"It is time,’’ Orioles GM Andy MacPhail said at the time. “He hit .260 in April. He hit about .360 in May. He hit in the Carolina League [last year]. We wanted to see him hit in the [Triple-A] International League. He checked that one off the list. The one thing you don't want to do with a ballyhooed prospect is to have to send him back."

Swihart hit .300 in Portland, with 38 extra-base hits, including 12 home runs, in 380 plate appearances. If he continues to hit at Pawtucket, and refines his defensive skills further, a call-up on about the same timetable as Wieters appears inevitable. No two players are alike, of course, but with the Sox bracing for the possibility that Christian Vazquez may need season-ending surgery, the need for Swihart to make that jump this season becomes more pronounced.

“The view is that with a young player like Blake we prefer to get them on a little bit of a roll on the minor league level,’’ Sox manager John Farrell said Monday. “There’s also the need to continue to refine the receiving side of things. He’s gotten quite a bit of an opportunity here in camp. He’s shown well, I think. Just in the big picture, I think we can all benefit from playing every day, and continue to work in the developmental areas that are there.’’

Red Sox acquire Sandy Leon

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30
[+] EnlargeSandy Leon, Travis d'Arnaud
AP Photo/Seth WenigSandy Leon (41) has a career .189 batting average in 34 games with the Washington Nationals over three seasons.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox, acting quickly to supplement their catching depth because of Christian Vazquez's elbow injury, have acquired reserve catcher Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals on Monday.

The Red Sox, who placed Vazquez on the 60-day disabled list Monday with a right elbow sprain, acquired Leon for cash considerations, the Red Sox announced.

"This is a guy who, given Christian's situation, we felt like we needed to build some depth at the position -- a guy that's available because of being out of options and someone we've always graded fairly high on the receiving end of the position," manager John Farrell said.

"Other than scouting reports, we really don't know anything about him, so we'll take every available day and opportunity to do just that."

Leon, 26, is out of options, and the Nationals didn't believe he would clear waivers, making him expendable. The native of Venezuela has caught 34 games in parts of three seasons for the Nationals and was batting .286 (6-for-21) this spring.

(Read full post)

BBTN 100: Players No. 51-100

March, 30, 2015
Mar 30

Who are the best players in Major League Baseball heading into the 2015 season?

ESPN formed a panel of MLB writers, analysts and contributors to rank the top 100. We ranked the top 10 at every position and will unveil the top 25 Tuesday with a special edition of "Baseball Tonight" (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2 & WatchESPN).

The results will be announced on, Facebook (ESPN Baseball Tonight) and Twitter (@BBTN). Fans can use the hashtag #BBTN100 to join the discussion and follow along.

To compile the top 100, we polled more than 60 ESPN experts in February and March, starting with a list of more than 300 players. Using a 0-to-10 scale, they evaluated the players based only on how well they are projected to perform in 2015. Players expected to miss 2015 with an injury were not included.

We're starting the top 100 by ranking the bottom half from 51-100, where there are 19 new players in the top 100. The highest debut on the list is Yankees reliever Dellin Betances. While 19 players made their debuts, 26 players who were ranked from 51-100 last year dropped out of the top 100.

Come back Tuesday for the top 50.

(Read full post)

Red Sox takeaways from 10-inning win over Rays

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where a wild wind at JetBlue Park proved vexing to fielders all day, but Boston Red Sox right fielder Rusney Castillo didn’t have a problem with that -- or anything else -- in a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

Castillo seems to have a flair for the dramatic. He launched a monster home run in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League on March 20 against the Baltimore Orioles, and six days later he beat the Minnesota Twins with a walk-off homer.

And then came Sunday.

On a sun-splashed but blustery day that blew a few homers back into play and forced fielders to make some scrambling, last-second catches, Castillo delivered the defensive play of the game in the top of the 10th and then scored the winning run in the bottom half of the inning on Deven Marrero's two-out single off The Green Monster.

In the top half of the 10th, Castillo made a diving catch of Coty Blanchard's fly ball in foul territory, then sprung to his feet and threw a no-hop strike to catcher Matt Spring to nail Cade Gotta at home plate and end the inning.

“I don’t know that you can make a play better than the one he made,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Diving play in foul territory, he gets up and sets his feet and throws a 150-foot strike. A dynamic player when you consider the skill set that he has. If there was any question of whether he could play right field, I think he’s certainly answering those for us in camp here.”

When Castillo was called up to Boston last September after signing a $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox following his departure from Cuba, he played 10 errorless games, but they were all in center field. Farrell likes what he’s seen out of Castillo’s right-field foray so far this spring.

“He’s handled a number of balls,” Farrell said. “We were over in Jupiter and he handled a sinking line drive that was going toward the line. His reads and his routes are fine there. Obviously, he has enough arm to play the position. So (he’s) a very good athlete.”

Farrell said Castillo looks “more in flow” with the game than he did in his brief action last September.

“Rather than being a workout type of player that he was for nearly a year, his timing, his decisions in the field, his decisions on the basepaths are all very solid,” Farrell said.

Farrell on Johnson: Before the game, Farrell said left-hander Brian Johnson has been one of the “bright spots” of the spring.

“The way he’s handled it, the way he’s pitched, the assertiveness and aggressiveness, the way he goes about his work,” Farrell said about what he likes. “There’s more velocity than I anticipated, and (there’s) depth and sharpness to his breaking ball, so two really strong points. You read all the reports judging a minor-league season and you get information on individuals, but when you see it play against major-league hitters, it certainly adds to his cause.”

And Farrell was singing the same song after Johnson’s sixth appearance and second start of the Grapefruit League, in which Johnson was nicked for six hits in four innings but got out of some jams and held the damage to two runs.

“I thought he had good stuff overall,” Farrell said. “I think the thing he’s learning here in the number of outings he’s had for us is just the consistent strike-throwing from pitch to pitch, hitter to hitter. He’s a guy who typically has good command of the strike zone, but a couple of times during the course of his outings there have been some base on balls that have led off an inning that have resulted in a run. But I think this has been a very productive spring so far.”

Farrell said Johnson, who will make his final spring appearance Friday, has “certainly helped his cause” in his bid to be a depth starter.

“Not being on the roster is one thing, but at some point that doesn’t become a deterrent,” Farrell said. “He’s had very good mound presence, good poise, he’s attacked the strike zone. He works at a pretty quick pace. Sometimes that gets the better of him at times when he rushes into pitches. But he’s shown very well here.”

Said Johnson, “That stuff is out of my control. I just want to go out there and show I can compete and give us a chance to win every time I get the ball. Other than that, just work as hard as I can every day leading up to that.”

His batterymate was Blake Swihart, and given the ominous news that starting catcher Christian Vazquez is headed for a visit with orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday and potentially could face season-ending Tommy John surgery, Johnson’s relationship with Swihart could ultimately prove to be huge.

“I love him,” Johnson said of Swihart. “I threw to him in (Double-A) Portland probably over 100 innings, and I have no complaints. He’s great back there. I trust him wholeheartedly with everything he does -- runner at third, throwing the ball in the dirt, what he calls. Me and him usually get on the same page very quick.”

Big Papi: David Ortiz went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and is hitting .208 in a spring truncated by dehydration and physical issues. Think Farrell is worried? Hardly.

“He had good swings even after he missed six or seven days,” Farrell said. “He came right back and his timing’s been there. Even though he was down for a number of games, there was still daily work going on in the cage. I’ve got no concerns with David and where’s he’s at in terms of being ready for (Opening Day) next Monday.”

Farrell on Barnes: Farrell said Matt Barnes is “not out of the mix” to be a starter.

“It’s a guy that’s been throwing pitches for strikes, so when you profile him out, he profiles as a starter,” Farrell said. “But he’s also throwing the ball well in shorter stints. He’s a good pitcher.”

The Red Sox don’t have a lot of hard-throwing arms in the bullpen, but Farrell said that wouldn’t factor into the decision with Barnes, who “can dial it up any time he wants it into the upper-90s” and “can be overpowering at times,” according to

“That’s an intriguing part,” Farrell said, “but setting the velocity aside, we were probably one of the teams at the lower end of the scale last year. Up until the trading deadline, we were one of the better-performing bullpens in all of baseball, so it’s a matter of getting outs.”

More takeaways

  • Farrell on Pablo Sandoval, who went 1-for-3 with a double and is now hitting .205: “We know he’s an aggressive-type hitter. He’s got the ability to hit a number of different pitches where they might be located in the strike zone. Seemingly, he can handle pitches from his ankles to his head. That’s the type of hitter he is, particularly from the left side of the plate. It was good to see him square up the ball right-handed today. That’s been a work of emphasis for him in his early work with Chili (hitting coach Chili Davis). So he’s been as advertised for us.”
  • Allen Craig, who is close to being traded, according to a report Saturday by’s Gordon Edes, went 0-for-2 with a walk. He had a chance to win the game in the 10th but was retired on a flyout.
  • Outfielder Shane Victorino, who had not played in back-to-back games in the field this spring, made his second straight start Sunday and is expected to start again Monday.
  • Mookie Betts leads the Grapefruit League with 11 extra-base hits, is second with 36 total bases and is tied for second with 19 hits. His 11 extra-base hits are the most by a Boston player in a single spring training since Josh Reddick's 12 in 2010.

Magee enjoying tryout with Red Sox

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Brandon Magee was growing up as a two-sport star in Corona, California, people told him he could be the next Bo Jackson. 

Now the 24-year-old Magee, after being released by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is in the Boston Red Sox's minor league camp and is taking a shot at baseball -- keeping in mind everything Bo knows and has told him.

"Some of them I can tell you, some of them I won't," Magee said after a Sunday morning workout. "He's a great guy. He's been here before. He gives me encouragement all the times I talked to him. He just told me to stay humble and try to keep working hard and outwork everybody out here. That's his main key."

When people told him in his youth that he could be the next Bo Jackson, Magee didn't even know who they were referring to, having been born just a few months before the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner's football career ended in 1991 and three years before Jackson retired from baseball in 1994. But Magee embraced the comparison, and Jackson even became a trusted mentor after Magee finished playing both football and baseball at Arizona State.

Magee spent time as a linebacker and special teams player with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Buccaneers during his NFL career.

Last spring, after signing with the Buccaneers, Magee spent extended spring training with the Red Sox. Magee was recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered while playing on special teams for the Browns. In his six weeks in Fort Myers, he spent most of the time rehabbing, never entering any games, and not even taking batting practice until near the end.

(Read full post)

Craig's time in Boston running out? 

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29
Is the clock ticking on Allen Craig's time with the Boston Red Sox? With very little wiggle room on the team's 25-man roster, a change of scenery in the next week might be in the cards for Craig.

John Farrell: Koji Uehara 'not game ready yet'

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager John Farrell said closer Koji Uehara (hamstring) is “not likely” to be on the roster on Opening Day. Uehara, sidelined since March 14, will not throw in the bullpen Monday.

“He’s going to need some additional increase in intensity and rehab to the hamstring,” Farrell said. “He felt it a little bit yesterday in the bullpen. He’s still able to do throwing to the point of keeping his arm in shape to a certain extent, but we’re not game ready yet.”

Farrell said Edward Mujica will be the primary closer, but the team could use others, depending on the situation.

“I will also say that we’ll look to matchups in the ninth inning as well,” he said. “We’ll look to exploit the best matchups, and that can be any one of three or four guys -- Taz (Junichi Tazawa, [Alexi] Ogando, and against tough lefties [it] could be Tommy Layne. We’re not limiting any of our options.

“I’m not saying this is strictly a closer by committee, but we would look to close games out with Eddie. But if there were certain situations that we feel like the better matchup is with a left-hander, I’m not opposed to doing it.”

Here are the lineups for today's Red Sox-Rays game:


1. Mookie Betts, CF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. David Ortiz, DH

4. Hanley Ramirez, LF

5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B

6. Mike Napoli, 1B

7. Shane Victorino, RF

8. Xander Bogaerts, SS

9. Blake Swihart, C

Brian Johnson, LHP


1. Steven Souza Jr., RF

2. Rene Rivera, C

3. Logan Forsythe, 1B

4. Evan Longoria, 3B

5. Joey Butler, LF

6. Tim Beckham, 2B

7. Juan Francisco, DH

8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF

9. Jake Elmore, SS

Clay Buchholz to start Opening Day

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29
[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
Brynn Anderson/Associated PressClay Buchholz had an 8-11 record with a 5.34 ERA last season for the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell eased the not-so-breathless speculation about his Opening Day starter by tabbing Clay Buchholz to go against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 6.

"He came into camp in a good place, both mentally and physically," Farrell said. "The line score last time out to me doesn't reflect the way the ball came out of his hand. Now, line scores are important. I get it. But he feels good physically. He's confident. We've seen when Clay has been in that place, he's one of the better pitchers in baseball."

(Read full post)

Christian Vazquez to get second opinion on throwing elbow

March, 29, 2015
Mar 29

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will see renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday in Pensacola, Florida, for a second opinion on his throwing elbow.

It’s never a good sign when a player visits Andrews, who is credited with perfecting the Tommy John surgery that Dr. Frank Jobe pioneered in 1974, transferring a tendon from one body part to the elbow.

But Red Sox manager John Farrell declined on Sunday to speculate on how serious the injury is.

“I don’t know about the severity of it right now,” he said. “We know that there have been findings based on the MRI, and I think anytime the elbow is talked about, you go to someone who is probably the source in our industry -- and that’s Dr. Andrews -- to take a further look at this.”

Ryan Hanigan steps into the starting catcher role. The backup could be 35-year-old journeyman Humberto Quintero or Blake Swihart, who has played in just 18 games above Double-A but has hit .333 in 24 spring training at-bats this year and will start Sunday’s game against the Rays.

Farrell said he isn’t sure how Wednesday’s evaluation with Andrews will impact his decision, saying that the staff will “evaluate the guys behind the plate and take every piece of available information to make a decision later in the week.”

Quintero has hit just .234 in 1,346 career at-bats over 12 seasons, but the Red Sox lineup appears to be loaded offensively, especially with the offseason acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Will that have an impact on the decision?

“I think it’s more about leading the pitchers at this point,” Farrell said. “The best way I can describe it is that there’s not going to be one thing we hang our hat on when it comes to making this decision.

“My view is that in our lineup, our catcher was going to hit ninth no matter what, [no matter] who they are. I think that’s just a sign of the strength of the rest of the lineup. All these things will be discussed and we’ll come to the decision that works best for us right now.”

Vazquez has been favorably compared to St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Yadier Molina for his quick release and strong arm, and also for his ability to frame pitches and call a game. Swihart, who was converted from a third baseman and outfielder after the Red Sox drafted him in 2011, is baseball’s No. 1 catching prospect, but he’s still learning the nuances.

“He’s looked fine,” Farrell said. “The other day, he and Clay [pitcher Clay Buchholz] were working through some things. That was clear because there were opportunities to finish hitters off. Clay’s the seasoned guy, so you’d like to know that a pitcher of his experience level is going to have maybe some of the presence of mind to go to certain pitches and to expand the strike zone. He did such a great job of getting ahead in the count, and yet there were probably some attack plans that could have been used to finish some hitters off.

“But I think as we’ve gotten through camp, Blake has been able to handle the pitchers we have here. He’s worked diligently on some pitches in certain areas of the strike zone … more receiving and framing, polishing could take place, and that’s ongoing. So he’s a good-looking player, very athletic. He can swing the bat. He throws very well.

“He’s learning the pitcher, first and foremost. I haven’t seen him enough in games to say where he would rank on a leadership scale. He’s a smart kid. He’s got good retention. I think he’s a fairly quick study. That’s what he’s shown here, so that area is not a detriment. I can say that.”

Farrell, asked if he would have to commit to a certain amount of playing for Swihart if he took him over Quintero, said, “We’re about winning games, and we’ll put the best team on the field.”

Vazquez has not played in a game since March 13, when he threw out Yankees minor leaguer Tyler Wade attempting to steal a base, and said he felt discomfort in the elbow.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Port, where former No. 1 prospect Matt Barnes continues to make a bid to break camp with the Red Sox as a reliever, after serving exclusively as a starter in three seasons since he was drafted out of the University of Connecticut.

[+] EnlargeRed Sox/Cards
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesMatt Barnes has shined this spring by commanding his mid-to-upper 90s fastball.

On Saturday against the Rays, Barnes entered in relief of knuckleballer Steven Wright with six unearned runs in and two on and two out in the fourth and induced Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending force play. He then worked two more scoreless innings, allowing just a hit and no walks while striking out four.

He has been used exclusively as a reliever in “A” games this spring, making seven appearances out of the bullpen, and has touched 96 and 97 mph with his velocity. With 16 strikeouts and no home runs allowed in 12 innings, he is giving the Sox an inviting option to add another power arm to the pen.

“I feel happy with how I’ve thrown the ball,’’ Barnes said.

The bullpen is in something of a state of flux because of the uncertain status of closer Koji Uehara, who has been sidelined since March 14 with a strained left hamstring. Uehara, who has made just three appearances this spring, threw a bullpen side session Saturday, and may throw another on Monday if he checks out OK Sunday, John Farrell said. The Sox manager insists there is still a possibility Uehara could open the season on time.

"Even if Koji were able to get in a couple of games, we’d remain open-minded,’’ Farrell said. “We’re talking about a one-inning reliever, a veteran guy who has been able to keep his arm in shape. This is still day to day.''

Joe Kelly, who is scheduled to be the team’s No. 5 starter, came out of his minor league start Friday fine and would be scheduled to go again Wednesday. How does Kelly impact the bullpen? The Sox may place Kelly on the DL to start the season, since they won’t need a No. 5 starter until April 15, at home against Washington. If they do so, Farrell said the club might open the season with an extra reliever.

To date, the locks for the bullpen are Uehara, once he is healthy, Edward Mujica, Alexi Ogando, Junichi Tazawa, and Anthony Varvaro. Still to be determined is whether the Sox will keep one or two lefties, with newcomer Robbie Ross, recovering from a minor knee problem earlier in camp, making a late push to challenge Craig Breslow and Tommy Layne. Right-hander Brandon Workman, who has had a tough spring but struck out the side Saturday, is in the mix, as is Barnes.

Because of the health issues involving Uehara and Kelly, those decisions may not come until the end of camp, Farrell said.

  • Other takeaways Saturday: Shane Victorino played right field, led off the game with a nine-pitch walk, came around to score and later singled in a run in what Farrell hopes will be the first of three straight starts in the outfield. Victorino has not yet started back-to-back games in the outfield.
  • Knuckleballer Steven Wright gave up four singles and a walk after Xander Bogaerts’ two-out error in the fourth, leading to five unearned runs for the Rays. Up to that point, with the exception of two first-inning walks, Wright was breezing along, and Farrell mentioned again how much he likes the contrast in styles a knuckleballer can offer. Wright figures to open the season in Pawtucket’s rotation and in line for a quick callup.
  • Rick Porcello started for High-A Salem in a minor league game and threw 96 pitches, 71 for strikes. He faced 32 batters while recording 25 outs and allowed a run on five hits. Porcello will likely ramp down in his final spring tuneup in advance of starting the season’s second game in Philadelphia on April 8.
  • Humberto Quintero, who appears likely to start the season backing up Ryan Hanigan at catcher, caught Porcello and went 0-for-6 at the plate.
  • Pablo Sandoval had 11 plate appearances in two minor league games, playing for Salem and Greenville, and had three hits, the hits all coming while batting left-handed.
  • Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez walked three straight batters on 12 consecutive balls in the ninth, but gave up just one run while striking out two.
  • Mike Napoli hit an opposite-field, wind-aided home run, his third of the spring, and Hanley Ramirez lined a two-run base hit.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Ryan Hanigan, a native of Andover, Massachusetts, was traded twice on one day last December to wind up with his hometown team. Now, a week before the Boston Red Sox break camp, the 34-year-old catcher who has never caught more than 100 games in a season in an eight-year big-league career is about to become the team’s No. 1 catcher because of an elbow injury to the highly regarded Christian Vazquez.

The Red Sox have not announced the extent of Vazquez’s injury, other than to say he would be seeking a second opinion after results of an MRI administered Friday showed some degree of structural damage. But it was clear from Hanigan’s comments following Boston’s 9-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday that the injury is more than a short-term concern and points to possible surgery.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen," Hanigan said. “He’s a good kid. He worked hard. It's just too bad. Things happen. He’ll be back. Just have to put in the work to get himself back.

[+] EnlargeRyan Hanigan
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRyan Hanigan will likely be Boston's Opening Day catcher.

“The positive thing is whatever happens, he hopefully won’t have to deal with it the rest of his career. Take care of it now. I don’t know the details. I was looking forward to working with him this year. Just too bad."

Hanigan termed it a “shock” to learn that the elbow issue that surfaced after Vazquez threw out a Yankees minor-leaguer, Tyler Wade, attempting to steal a base in a March 13 game at JetBlue Park has become the most serious health issue to face the Sox this spring. The Sox arranged for Vazquez to undergo an MRI on Friday, manager John Farrell said, after Vazquez, who said he was making progress in his throwing program, appeared to have “plateaued” in his recovery from the injury.

Hanigan was Tampa Bay’s Opening Day catcher last season and started 31 of the team’s first 52 games. But he went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring — the team went 1-12 in his absence — then made a second trip to the DL in July with a strained left oblique that cost him six weeks. The previous year, with Cincinnati, he played just 75 games because of two other DL stints, one because of an oblique strain, the other because of a sprained left wrist.

Last Dec. 19, Tampa Bay dealt him to the San Diego Padres, who hours later flipped him to the Red Sox for third baseman Will Middlebrooks. While Farrell at the time of the deal declared Vazquez as the team’s primary catcher, Hanigan said he was preparing as if he would be the team’s everyday catcher. Now, because of Vazquez’s injury, that is the likely scenario, with veteran backup Humberto Quintero behind him. Farrell mentioned Blake Swihart, the No. 1 prospect in the organization, as another possibility, but indications are that the Sox will want Swihart to gain more experience in Triple-A, though a call-up at some point during the season appears inevitable.

"I always trained to come in to be the starting guy," Hanigan said. “That's what I always wanted, to tell you the truth. I trained that way in the offseason, worked hard to be ready whenever my name was called."

Hanigan said he believes he has become sufficiently acquainted with the team’s pitching staff, no easy task given that he is a newcomer and four of the five pitchers in the starting rotation have been added since July 31.

“I know where all these guys are at; I know their checkpoints," he said. “I think I can benefit from the next week-and-a-half to work on sequencing of pitches … but I know what their ball does, I know how they want to pitch. I’ve been able to talk to them, give my two cents. They’ve been very receptive. There’s been good feedback. I’m excited."

Hanigan said he had some throwing issues with his elbow early in his playing career but was able to correct them without resorting to surgery.

“I changed the way I threw and followed a strength program to take the pressure off my elbow," he said. “They helped me to learn to throw to take as much pressure off my elbow as I could. I changed things to make sure I wasn’t cranking on the elbow.

“Fortunately for me, to tell you the truth, my arm is stronger and hurting less. I went the last three, four seasons where I could throw as hard as I want every day. I think I got my mechanics down, my program down to where it works."

In Vazquez, the Sox are losing a catcher who was favorably compared to St. Louis Cardinals’ All-Star Yadier Molina, not only for his formidable arm strength but his overall defensive skills behind the plate — pitch framing, blocking pitches, game calling. “I call him mini-Yadi," said pitcher Joe Kelly, who was Molina’s teammate before being traded to the Red Sox.

After his call-up on July 9, Vazquez became the team’s regular catcher, replacing A.J. Pierzynski (released), playing in 55 games (50 starts) and throwing out 51.7 percent of the runners attempting to steal on him, 15 of 29. That’s the best rate in Sox history for any catcher playing 50 games or more.

Hanigan, like another Sox backup catcher of recent vintage, David Ross, comes with a solid defensive reputation. He has a career caught-stealing rate of 38 percent (115 of 303), although that number fell to 21 percent last season (8 of 38). The Rays signed him to a three-year, $10.75 million deal before the 2014 season, believing he would handle the majority of their catching duties. But injuries, and his second off-year at the plate (.198 with the Reds in 2013, .218 last season with the Rays) made him expendable.

Hanigan, who had a hit in three at-bats Saturday, is batting .263 this spring.

“I’m getting there," said Hanigan, who added he hoped to get at least another 15-or-so at-bats before the end of camp.

Allen Craig trade rumors increase

March, 28, 2015
Mar 28

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Entering play Saturday, first baseman-outfielder Allen Craig had the most spring training at-bats of any player on the Red Sox, 40.

[+] EnlargeAllen Craig
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsHeading into Saturday, Allen Craig was batting a respectable .275 this spring with one home run.

That’s no accident. The Red Sox insist Craig’s workload is related to their desire to give him as much playing time as possible after last season’s disappointing performance that followed his 2013 foot injury. Talent evaluators following the Sox, however, maintain that the added exposure is tied to the team’s desire to trade him to alleviate their crowded outfield situation. And with a week left before the team breaks camp, there was talk here that the Sox were close to trading Craig, though that could not be confirmed Saturday afternoon.

Craig, acquired from St. Louis along with pitcher Joe Kelly in the John Lackey trade, is under contract with the Sox for a guaranteed $25.5 million through the next three seasons. The team holds a $13 million option for 2018, with a $1 million buyout. Craig batted .300 or better three straight seasons for St. Louis and hit .375 against the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series despite a foot injury that caused him to miss the last 22 games of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But Craig struggled last season, batting just .237 for the Cardinals and only .128 in 29 games for the Sox after the trade. He refused to blame his injury, but his mechanics were clearly impacted at the plate.

So far this spring, Craig has posted a .275/.348/.400/.748 slash line, with 11 hits, including two doubles and a home run.

"He’s not a project," Sox hitting coach Chili Davis said this spring. "He’s a proven hitter, and he’s piecing it together again. I’ve had sessions that were beautiful in the cage, and he's starting to feel like himself again. He just needs to get at-bats.

"He was hurt last year. He was in a different environment last year; he was traded in the middle of the year. Not to make excuses, because he doesn’t make excuses, that’s why he stayed in the lineup. He’s that kind of person.

"He knows what he can do. He’s a quiet, confident person. Actually, I’m real happy he’s here. He’s a veteran hitter, he’s an RBI guy and he’s proven himself and knows what he’s got to do. I’m just here to try to help him along and I know he’s going to get there. He’s going to get there and I’m truly hoping he’s here when he gets there, because he’s going to do some damage and help us win some ballgames."

But as the Sox roster is currently aligned, it’s hard to see where Craig would get playing time. Manager John Farrell and GM Ben Cherington already have to figure out how to make room for Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Shane Victorino into the same outfield, and switch-hitter Daniel Nava gives the Sox depth in the outfield and at first base. Brock Holt is another outfield option, and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz represent organizational depth. Bradley began the day batting .389, behind only Betts (.487) and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman (.390) in the Grapefruit League.

Which is why the speculation is growing louder that Craig will be dealt before the end of camp. At this point, it remains a rumor, but there is no question that clubs have had at least preliminary discussions with the Sox about the 30-year-old Craig.