Shane Victorino was a candidate to bat first. Seven different players started games in the leadoff position for the Sox last season, led by Brock Holt, with 93 starts. Three other players had 10 more starts at leadoff: Dustin Pedroia 26, Mookie Betts 22, and Grady Sizemore 10.
With Holt out for the last month of the season with concussive symptoms, Betts’ last 20 starts came in the leadoff spot. He posted a .308/.393/.423/.816 slash line in that span, but so far is not assured of a regular job this season. Farrell declared Victorino [if healthy] the starter in right field, and Betts is competing with Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. for the center-field job, with Castillo the apparent favorite.
“Vic is a candidate, but it will be dependent on the opposing pitcher on a given day,’’ Farrell said. “Whether or not Rusney is a guy who evolves into that in time I would say there are other guys ahead of him right now.
“Still, it’s not going to solely be dependent on speed. On-base [capability] is the primary driver.’’
- The Sox worked on situational base-running drills Friday morning, a spirited exercise conducted by third-base coach Brian Butterfield in which he would bark out a situation – “one out, need to score from first” -- and the base-runners would react to wherever minor-league coach Chad Epperson would hit the ball. Besides seeing Dustin Pedroia running like it was a game in September, the drill had its share of humor: watching guys like David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval and Xander Bogaerts when they were the base-runners going to first base, seeing the ball caught, and reacting as if they were the ones who had made an out. Ortiz, in particular, gave the crowd a laugh when he raised his arms as if the ball was leaving the park, then shouting, “Damn” when it was caught.
Given the day’s emphasis on base-running, Farrell was asked about the team’s approach to the stolen base this season. Last year, with Jacoby Ellsbury departing as a free agent and Shane Victorino hurt before the opener, the Sox were dreadful in the first half of the season, converting just 60 percent of their stolen-base attempts (30 of 50), the worst success rate in the big leagues. But with Brock Holt playing regularly, Mookie Betts joining the big club and Yoenis Cespedes acquired by trade, the Sox were an outstanding base-stealing team in the second half, stealing safely in 33 of 38 attempts, an 86.8 percent success rate.
“We would expect that to carry over,’’ Farrell said, “with Mookie, with Brock being back active. Hanley [Ramirez], in his own right, the body type might not suggest a base-stealer but you’re looking at a guy with 13-to-17 stolen base capability. An overall part of our approach is taking advantage of situations and trying to create as much of a dynamic offense as possible.’’
Ramirez, 31, stole 51 bases in each of his first two seasons in the big leagues. He has a total of 45 stolen bases in his last three seasons combined. He missed 28 games with a strained hamstring in 2013. “If we need a bag to win a game, I [will run],’’ he said Friday.
Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have Ramirez stealing as many bases (18) as hitting home runs (18) for the Sox this season.
Told that his strong-safety build might lead some to think he was unlikely to run, he said: “That’s good they feel like that.’’
And what about David Ortiz? “He’ll get five,’’ Ramirez said.
Ortiz’s career high is four stolen bases, set in 2013. Overall with the Red Sox, he has 11 steals in 17 attempts, a success rate of 64.7 percent.
- As of Friday afternoon, the Red Sox had no plans to announce the official signing of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The 19-year-old switch-hitter completed his physical on Thursday in Boston.
“Boston will tell me when the signing will take place,’’ David Hastings, the Florida CPA who is representing Moncada, said Friday. “They have to wait for all test results to come back.’’
Moncada is expected to report to minor-league camp on Monday.
- Outfielder Bryce Brentz, who had missed the last couple of days with knee soreness, took part Friday on a limited basis and is expected to ramp up activity Saturday.
- Former Sox pitcher [and Fort Myers resident] Derek Lowe was a visitor to camp Friday. Launching a comeback? “Yeah, as a backup of a backup of a backup,’’ said Lowe, whose big-league career ended in 2013 when he was released by Texas, the last of seven teams he pitched for over a 17-year career, 8 of which were spent with the Sox.
- The Sox day was shortened because of their annual charity golf event.
- Peter Woodfork from the commissioner’s office is expected in camp Saturday to brief club officials on pace-of-play rules. Joe Torre was scheduled to be here, but Farrell said he is dealing with a personal issue and is not expected.
Manager John Farrell was asked whether he would have any reservations playing Ortiz in the field those first three games in Philly, where the weather is likely to be cold.
“None at all,’’ Farrell said.
Ortiz, as he customarily does in spring training, is taking ground balls at first. He played five games at first base last season, all starts. Since 2007, he has played 37 games at first and has made just one error in 263 chances.
Interestingly, Ortiz hasn’t fared well at the plate in games in which he has played first. Since the start of the 2007 season, he is batting .220 (28 for 127) in games in which has played first, and is just 6 for 38 (.158) when playing in the field the past two seasons.
"We're very proud to have been selected by both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to develop a comprehensive strategy to educate and engage players in positive solutions to prevent and end domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse," Esta Soler, the organization's president, told the AP. "Their dual commitment to these issues reminds everyone that violence against women and children affects all of us, and that we can all be part of the solution."
Farrell said he and the coaching staff will not be allowed in the players’ sessions but will undergo separate training.
“Everyone is required to go through it,’’ Farrell said. “When players understand this is being done for their own benefit, they have to take notice that not only is it important but what are some potential warning signs, how do you avoid ending up in a difficult situation.’’
After someone noted that three of the starters expected to be in the regular rotation are all pitching in Tuesday’s college double-header, foiling any attempts to project an Opening Day starter April 6 in Philadelphia, manager John Farrell said: “Camouflage.’’
“We’re also playing a double-header,’’ Farrell said. “So it’s a matter of getting a number of guys to the mound as early as we can.’’
Right-hander Joe Kelly, who is scheduled to pitch the Grapefruit League opener against the Twins next Thursday, noted an added incentive he has to make one of the team’s first three starts of the season. Because they’re opening in a National League city, Philadelphia, Sox pitchers will be required to bat. They won’t get that chance again until June 17 in Atlanta.
“Love to hit,’’ Kelly said. “Part of the plan.’’
Kelly is a career .172 (14 for 82) hitter, which ranks him tied for 15th among pitchers with at least 75 at-bats since he debuted in 2012. Last season he was 2 for 4 (.500) for the Sox, becoming just one of eight Sox pitchers to collect two or more hits in a season since the dawn of the DH in 1973. Only one Sox pitcher has homered in that time: Josh Beckett, who homered in both 2006 and 2009. Beckett also had three hits in the 2009 season, a record for a Sox pitcher in the DH era. Kelly has never homered in his big-league career, but has four doubles.
Hughes attends Resurrection Catholic Community in Aptos, a town in northern California where the parish priest, Father Ron Shirley, was keenly aware that Hughes worked for the Sox. It became a sore point for Father Ron when he heard that the Sox had targeted Pablo Sandoval, a beloved figure among fans of the San Francisco Giants.
“I think you need to go to confession,’’ Father Ron told Hughes on one occasion. “You’re trying to steal something.’’
That was before Sandoval signed with the Sox. Then on Ash Wednesday, Hughes was attending mass there when Father Ron, during the service, informed the congregation that Hughes was present and it was his fault that Sandoval had signed with the Sox. The priest was stretching the truth a bit -- the decision to pursue Sandoval occurred well above Hughes’s pay grade- -- but that distinction was lost on the parishioners.
“They booed me,’’ Hughes said Friday. “During the mass.’’
With one exception. “One little kid turned around and whispered to me,’’ Hughes said, “’I’m a Red Sox fan.’’’
Lest you get the wrong idea, Hughes loves Father Ron, who at one time served as the offensive coordinator for a high school football team.
Joe Kelly is scheduled to start Thursday night’s Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins in Hammond Stadium.
Buchholz is scheduled to pitch an inning against the Huskies, with Rick Porcello scheduled to go two and highly regarded left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez also listed for an inning. Also listed as available to pitch are Zeke Spruill, Dana Eveland, Anthony Varvaro and Mitchell Boggs.
Left-hander Miley is scheduled to pitch two innings against the Eagles, with knuckleballer Steven Wright down for one. Also listed as available are Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Edwin Escobar, Dalier Hinojosa, Keith Couch and Noe Ramirez.
Rookies Matt Barnes and Brian Johnson are scheduled to follow Kelly against the Twins, with Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Tommy Layne, and Heath Hembree listed as available to pitch.
The Sox Grapefruit League home opener is scheduled for next Friday against the Miami Marlins.
Unlike Thursday, no pitchers will be throwing live BP. Pitchers will be working on pickoff plays and again go through “Juanchi” drills, in which they play all the infield positions, while position players will work on individual defense and also work with the catchers on “four-bagger” drills. A half-hour of batting practice in the cages and against the coaches will complete the day’s baseball activities, followed by player conditioning.
- The Sox have scheduled a domestic violence meeting at 8 a.m. Saturday.
- In the wake of Wednesday’s media training, here’s a rundown on the primary players on the Boston media scene, non-TV division. There has been some movement since last season. Alex Speier left WEEI.com and has joined forces with Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo on the Boston Globe’s baseball coverage, with Dan Shaughnessy and Chris Gaspar the paper’s regular sports columnists. John Tomase shifted from the Boston Herald to WEEI.com, where he joins Rob Bradford and Mike Petraglia. The Herald has added Jason Mastrodonato, who last season covered for Masslive.com. Jason joins Scott Lauber and Michael Silverman, with Steve Buckley and Ron Borges the columnists. Sean McAdam (CSNNE) and Bill Ballou (Worcester Telegram) maintain their veteran presence. Jen McCaffrey is in Fort Myers covering spring training for Masslive.com and looms as a logical successor there. Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson are here for the Providence Journal. Ian Browne still heads the coverage at Redsox.com, while David Dorsey, the bard of Fort Myers, does double-duty on the Twins and Red Sox for the local News-Press and is also author of a well-regarded book, “Fourth Down in Dunbar.” The other local writer, J. Scott Butherus [“The Hat”] of the Naples Daily News, has everyone trumped for best side job. Butherus is a local shark expert who appeared on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in its “Monster Hammerhead” show. Ricky Doyle livens things up for NESN.com, Ken Powtak is here for the Associated Press, and the legendary Jonny Miller continues to provide reports for WBZ radio. Here, of course, yours truly is back for his 18th spring in the Fort, ably assisted by Rick Weber, imported from Fort Myers just for the occasion. And Glenn Miller remains the go-to man for Fort Myers’ rich baseball history.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Clay Buchholz was finished with his first session of throwing live batting practice Thursday, a man who had been watching closely from behind the cage was there to greet the Red Sox right-hander when he came off the mound.
Jason Varitek, who was behind the plate when Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second big league start in 2007, lightly tapped the pitcher on his chest with his fist, and with a half-smile exchanged a knowing glance.
"There were no words said,'' Buchholz said in the Sox clubhouse afterward. "'Tek, you can tell whenever he's not satisfied. There doesn't have to be a word spoken. And you can tell when he's satisfied with what he saw.''
There was no mistaking the message this time, either. Buchholz, who at 30 suddenly finds himself the senior member of a pitching rotation that will feature just one other 30-year-old (Justin Masterson) when the season starts April 6, is in a much better place than he was at this time a year ago.
New rules, no problem: Manager John Farrell indicated Thursday that he doesn't expect the new pace-of-play rules to be a major issue for David Ortiz, despite the spirited objections the slugger expressed the day before.
“I think he’ll adhere to the rules," Farrell said. “Any time we’re going through some subtle changes or some adjustments, the pace of game or replay, there’s going to be some growing pains. We fully anticipate that. I think it’s important we all give this a chance to come to fruition a little bit, see how it may or may not affect the flow of the game or an individual routine. I think that’s what’s important here. There’s a personal routine at the plate and on the mound that is part of the natural flow of the game. Some might consider that slow. I think that’s important that it’s preserved. That’s what puts a player in the right frame of mind to execute what he’s trying to get done.
“I don’t think [Ortiz] put a target on his back. He spoke his mind. That’s where we don’t want to make this too much of an issue. I think it will end up being a subtlety inside the game. But this is no different than when they had fines and potential suspensions for relievers coming out of the bullpen who took too long. We dealt with our guys who were slower than normal."
Step to the plate: This was the first day of pitchers throwing live batting practice. Most hitters chose to track pitches in their first sessions, meaning they did not take any swings but instead stood in the box and watched pitches. Mike Napoli, who stood in against Clay Buchholz along with Dustin Pedroia, spoke to Buchholz afterward. “He told me the ball looked like an Advil," Buchholz said.
“Pitch to contact," Farrell said when asked what he is looking for from his pitchers in their first live BP. “Every pitch that they throw should be with the idea of throwing a first strike, regardless of the type of pitch. Even though a hitter is going to see five pitches or take five swings (per round), we want the pitcher to think it’s the first pitch of the at-bat, where you’re executing first-pitch strikes.
“Strike-oriented. You’re using all your pitch mix for the first time seeing hitters. You’re seeing how hitters react to the stuff you’re throwing at the plate."
Shane switches it up: Shane Victorino, who tracked pitches from Varvaro, did so from the left-handed batter’s box.
Farrell confirmed what Victorino had indicated upon his arrival in camp last week that he intends to resume switch-hitting. Farrell said he has talked to Victorino about his return to batting from the left side against right-handers.
“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 there were physical restrictions. With those freed up now, the left side of the plate comes back in play.
“What I would hate to see happen is that here’s a nine-year major-league veteran who switch-hit the entire time all of a 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."
Pedey's one-liners: Dustin Pedroia delivered another clever comment regarding pace of play. Last week, it was, "My kids go to bed at 8, so I’m not in a rush. I don’t make the rules, I don’t break them. So that’s where I’m at."
Pedroia, asked again Thursday about pace of play in the wake of David Ortiz’s rant the day before, said: “Baseball isn’t a drive-thru."
Scouts in the house: The team’s pro scouts have assembled here for two days of meetings before they fan out to camps in Florida and Arizona. Let the trade speculation begin in earnest.
Brentz sits out: Outfielder Bryce Brentz, who has some soreness in his right knee, was held out of workouts for the second straight day. He was the only player unable to participate in Thursday’s work. On a social note, the newspaper in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where Brentz starred in baseball for Middle Tennessee State, recently ran a feature story announcing the engagement of MTSU’s “First Couple": Brentz and Anne Marie Lanning, who was picked the best high school basketball player in the state before scoring over 1,000 points at MTSU. The two are to be married at Lanning’s family farm on Nov. 20, the story said.
Pitchers get in the action: Among the drills the pitchers performed Thursday was something the team calls “The Juanchi," named after Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, in which the pitchers play all of the infield positions.
“What we try to do is have every pitcher understand the responsibilities of defensive players at their position. We rotate guys through so they can anticipate game situations, what a player does at their respective positions, and it’s more just understanding a situation and anticipating it more."
Serious about bunting: Infield instructor Brian Butterfield, while conducting bunt drills, admonished the players when the execution became a bit sloppy. “This is a very serious business," he said. “This is the difference between winning and losing."
“That’s not the first time that’s been brought up in this camp," Farrell said. “Typically those situations arise late in a game, whether a tie game or one-run ballgame. What we don’t want to do is just be satisfied with just one out, which means we’d just take the out at first base. If we can execute and knock down a lead runner, and be a little more attentive with that out, that’s the way we’re drilling."
Moncada's snow day: Yoan Moncada arrived Wednesday night in Boston with the city in the grip of a deep freeze and piles of snow everywhere, and reacted the way you might expect a Cuban teenager who had never seen snow before.
“The first thing he did at the hotel last night was go out in the snow," said David Hastings, the Florida-based CPA who accompanied Moncada to Boston for the completion of his physical, having completed the first phase here Wednesday.
“And no, he didn’t change his mind [about signing with the Red Sox]. Everything is going well."
The Red Sox have yet to announce that they have struck an agreement with Moncada, who agreed Sunday to accept a record-setting $31.5 million bonus from the Sox. They may do so once the physical is completed, although a press conference has not been scheduled and may not come until next week, when Moncada is scheduled to report to the team’s minor-league camp.
But it will be a little more so this year, because when the teams take the field on Tuesday afternoon every player, amateur and professional alike, will be wearing the same number -- No. 3. And every Eagle will bear the same name on his back: Frates.
The Eagles and Red Sox are teaming up to honor Pete Frates, the former BC outfielder whose battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at least partially inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the country this past summer.
More than $200 million was raised via that social media phenomenon.
On Tuesday, Boston College will wear replica uniforms designed to look like the jerseys Frates and his teammates wore during the 2007 season, when Frates served as senior captain. The Beverly, Massachusetts, native finished his BC career with 107 starts, a .228 average, 88 hits, 56 RBIs, 11 home runs and 34 stolen bases.
After the game, all the uniforms will be auctioned off to raise money for the Pete Frates No. 3 Fund, which was set up after his 2012 diagnosis to pay medical costs not covered by insurance and to raise awareness of and funds for the fight against ALS.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
“The first thing he did at the hotel last night was go out in the snow,’’ said David Hastings, the Florida-based CPA who accompanied Moncada to Boston for the completion of his physical, having completed the first phase here Wednesday.
“And no, he didn’t change his mind [about signing with the Red Sox]. Everything is going well.’’
The Red Sox have yet to announce that they have struck an agreement with Moncada, who agreed Sunday to accept a record-setting $31.5 million bonus from the Sox. They may do so once the physical is completed, although a news conference has not been scheduled and may not come until next week, when Moncada is scheduled to report to the team’s minor-league camp.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The day dawned under a blanket of ominous gray. The sun would ultimately break through, but even if it hadn’t, there would be something transcendent about this day at Fenway South.
It's not every day that a woman dresses up in a baseball uniform and ends up getting tips on nail polish and manicures from a knuckleballing pitcher. It's not every day that a fan flies 2,708 miles just to see a Panda Bear. It's not every day that Dustin Pedroia answers questions from two distinguished Marines who want to know about that scar on his right arm. And it sure isn't every day that The Spaceman touches down.
Outside the clubhouse, just after 9 a.m. on the first day of full-squad workouts for the Boston Red Sox, Staff Sgt. David Foraker and Sgt. Ron Michael Abeleda stood tall in their freshly pressed dress Marine uniforms. Their visit, which included meeting Pedroia and Mike Napoli, was sponsored by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's Home Base Program, dedicated to serving veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing signs of combat stress or traumatic brain injury.
After meeting Pedroia and learning that a scar on his right arm was caused by a falling toy while playing with his daughter, Abeleda said, "Just being with them, you see they're just like us. Just very simple guys. They love what they do, just like we love what we do, and you love what you do. We're all just proud to be here together."
Over on Field 3, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval -- aka "The Tres Amigos" -- went through stretching exercises, organized in the row the way they probably will be on manager John Farrell's lineup card on game day.
Near the fence just in front of them, Bianca de la Garza mimicked their movements in front of a video camera. Wearing a ballgirl's red jersey and white pants, she looked into the camera and said, "Steven Wright's going to teach me how to throw a knuckleball today. Good luck with that."
De la Garza, 39, signed off as news anchor for WCVB-TV Channel 5 in May 2014 to develop entertainment programming under her new company, Lucky Gal Productions LLC. She's in camp to film segments for her show, "Bianca Unanchored," which airs every Saturday night.
"It's spontaneous," she said later. "They put me in all situations and I just go with it. It's a cool format. It's me kind of out there, boots on the ground. It's been a thrill. This has been a real tough winter in New England, and people are dying for Opening Day."
Her segment with Wright, a 30-year-old journeyman knuckleballer who resurrected his career two years ago when the Red Sox signed him, was a real eye-opener for her.
"His nails were better than mine," she said, laughing heartily. "I need a manicure, next to his. They look great. They're short, squared, shiny. He told me he uses 'Hard As Nails' on two fingers. He doesn't cut his nails, just files them.
"These are the types of hard-hitting questions you get on 'Bianca Unanchored.' What’s your hair product? Do I look official enough as a ballgirl? You've got to have fun. I think they actually enjoy it, I think because the media is so hard on sports. They like to loosen up a little, and it's a good setting. They have a ton of personality. This team is built on it. It's going to be fun to watch and see how it comes together."
Later on, in the clubhouse, Wright was asked about the knuckleball lesson. He paused a few seconds, trying to formulate a genteel way to describe it.
"I mean, she tried," he said. "She tried hard. She wasn't hurt. She understood the concept, but it's a pitch that not everybody can do. There are guys who have pitched 20 years in the big leagues that can't throw it, so to have somebody who's not really thrown a baseball to throw a knuckleball, it's a little different."
Over on Field 4, it was a learning experience for Ramirez. The last time he was with the Red Sox, they trained near City of Palms Park. Now, they're at the $80 million Fenway South complex, with players moving from field to field through labyrinthian tunnels created by fence openings and yellow rope to keep the mob of spectators in line.
"Hanley!" Farrell yelled. When he got Ramirez's attention, Farrell motioned for Ramirez to leave through the third-base dugout rather than first base.
Sandoval appeared to have the whole maze figured out. Or maybe he was just following Ramirez.
As Sandoval headed in that direction, a fan shouted from behind the fence, and he acknowledged her with a wave and a smile.
Pereira flew from Southern California on Sunday, spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway South and was scheduled to fly out late Wednesday. She's a Giants fan but probably an even bigger Panda fan. Now that Panda is in the American League, she plans on booking trips to Oakland, California, in May and Anaheim in August to see him.
"Panda knows me from seeing him at the Dodgers games," she said. "Every time the Giants come to L.A., I'm always there. For the last two years, I've been to every game there. I met him in San Diego two years ago, and he knows I'm a familiar face wherever he's at."
"I'm harmless," she said, clarifying her status as a nonstalker.
Harmless, but saddened at the change of address for Sandoval.
"I'm torn," she said. "Yeah, I'm torn. All my friends ask me, because they know how dedicated I am to Panda, 'So, are you a Red Sox fan now?' I'm like, 'No, I'm a Panda fan.'
"He's so entertaining to watch. He exudes an aura. There's something about him that really makes it fun. I am excited that he is here for you guys. I'm excited that the Bostonians seem to be embracing him as well. I wasn't sure how that was going to go over at first with the Panda stuff, but it looks like it’s taking off."
Well, maybe, but not at the souvenir stand. Panda-mania had not yet commenced. They're selling a Panda Bear cap -- featuring 10-inch flaps, each holding a baseball -- for $15. But as of late in the workout, there were no takers.
"There has been some interest," Joseph Knoll said. "Some people have asked about them, but I have not sold any yet."
Over on Field 3, ESPN's Karl Ravech and Curt Schilling did a live feed for "SportsCenter on the Road." The sight of Sandoval and Ortiz launching shots onto the metal roof of the batting cage in right field seemed to impress them.
"You get the sense that this is real," Ravech said.
The mood was jovial, with Sandoval video-bombing an interview being conducted with Ramirez. When Ortiz came over to join them, Ravech had to remind Ortiz, "Now that we're on live TV, whatever you're saying is going through that little mic there."
In the end, when the fans had started to stream for the exit gate and Schilling had satisfied a moving, pushing, autograph-seeking throng, a bearded former player strolled slowly down the sidewalk near the clubhouse, carrying two bats in his right hand, a bit of a hitch in his 68-year-old giddyup.
Bill "Spaceman" Lee is always welcome here.