Morning report: Lackey gets first start


FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There will be lots of baseball for the Boston Red Sox today, with a split-squad team, including manager John Farrell, traveling to Sarasota and facing the Baltimore Orioles.

Back home at 1:05 p.m. at JetBlue Park, John Lackey will see his first Grapefruit League start and center fielder Grady Sizemore will get his first back-to-back start of spring training, facing the Miami Marlins.

Farrell brought a few A-list players with him to Sarasota in Daniel Nava, A.J. Pierzynski, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been on every road trip this spring training.

“I just do what I’m told,” Bradley said prior to boarding the bus. “That’s what I do.”

Bradley, who broke camp with the team last season after a sensational spring training, is hitting .190 (4-for-21 ) after seven games. He said he did not have much to say about what appears to be an increasing competition between him and Grady Sizemore for the center field spot.

“I’m just trying to get ready for the season,” Bradley said. “I’m not focusing too much on my competition right now. I’m just trying to play. I control what I can control and worry about that tomorrow.”

Sizemore is hitting .364 (4-for-11) in four games, with today’s back-to-back start representing another milestone. Farrell, who is familiar with Sizemore from their days with the Cleveland Indians organization, said he was trying not to get too excited over Sizemore’s early production.

“We have familiarity with him from back in Cleveland,” Farrell said. “We temper that past impression because of what he can do. I think about the challenges he has had to overcome. What’s stood out this spring is his timing at the plate. You would think he would need a greater number of at bats to show the timing he has shown. That’s extremely encouraging.

“We felt like he was a good bet and had every opportunity to get back on the field and maintain that. Now, to what level of game play, we don’t know that yet. But the one thing we know is the timing he has shown at the plate.”

Sizemore, 31, hit .268 with 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 38 stolen bases for the Indians in 2008 but has not played in the big leagues since 2011 because of a number of injuries, including microfacture surgery on his right knee in 2013 and lower back surgery in 2012.

“Grady feels good,” Farrell said. “He’s going to be back another day, playing three full innings and getting a couple of at-bats. Maybe not as long as a duration as other games played.”

As Sizemore progresses, Farrell said he would loosen the reins and grant him opportunities to run more aggressively on the basepaths.

“He’s in that one area right now, where, I think yesterday you saw it, we put him in motion on a 3-2 count,” Farrell said. “He’s getting back familiar with game situations. So whether it’s slowing down while standing up or sliding, that’s probably the one area, as he gets some more games played, the decision to do that. Really, I’d like him to slide all the time. That’s easier than slowing and stopping while upright.”

* Peavy back on Thursday: Right-handed starter Jake Peavy, who has been held back because of an accidental cut to a finger on his left hand, is slated to start on the road against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. Farrell said Peavy would wear a bigger glove with more padding in order to better protect the finger.

* Back on the hill: Left-hander Rich Hill, whose infant son died recently, will face minor league hitters at 11 a.m. Wednesday. “It’s been since Feb. 19 since his last bullpen, back in the Boston area,” Farrell said. “So he’s thrown a couple of bullpens here, a simulated game tomorrow, and we’ll look to slide him into a game after that. Dan Butler will be behind the plate with him tomorrow.”

* Brown a solid signing: The Red Sox signed Corey Brown as a minor league free agent from the Washington Nationals during the offseason. Brown hit a home run Monday and has a .571 batting average (4-for-7) so far. He is starting today in Sarasota in left field and has played all three outfield positions.

“Corey, he’s got some tools,” Farrell said. “He’s obviously got some power, and that’s not just the ball he hit yesterday. His track record shows that. Every opportunity we can get him on the field, we’ll take a look. Once you get past Jackie, this is why we pursued him, to provide that depth.”

* Miller’s time: Andrew Miller is slated to pitch Tuesday in Fort Myers, and Farrell praised the former starter for his transition to the bullpen. Miller had left foot surgery last July 15, which limited him to 37 appearances last season.

“Before the foot injury last year, he was becoming a prominent guy in our bullpen,” Farrell said. “He was so effective against right-handers. He had the ability to strike people out. When he went down last year, that was one of the bigger blows that our team took in terms of players lost. The strikeout ability in key spots is invaluable.

“His conversion to the bullpen, in hindsight, has been a very good one. The decision to put him in the bullpen is one that he has not only adapted to but agreed with. I think the more frequent outings helps a bigger-bodied pitcher such as Andrew maintain his timing and his delivery. If you look at old video when he was a starter compared to now, he has gone to basically a side step. So he has reduced some movement in his delivery that’s allowed his release point to be repeated more consistently. So those are the two main factors that have put him in the position he is in today.”

* Cuts coming up: Farrell said he would make his first roster cuts before the weekend.

* Victorino off again: Right fielder Shane Victorino was held out of Tuesday’s games, a planned move in easing him back into competition. He is slated to play again Thursday and might get extra at-bats in a minor league game on Friday.

* Today’s Red Sox lineups:

At JetBlue Park vs. the Miami Marlins

1. Grady Sizemore, CF

2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

3. David Ortiz, DH

4. Mike Napoli, 1B

5. Jonny Gomes, LF

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS

7. David Ross, C

8. Bryce Brentz, RF

9. Jonathan Herrera, 3B

SP -- Jon Lackey, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Drake Britton, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Edward Mujica, RHP Junichi Tazawa and RHP Koji Uehara.

Much was made of how the Red Sox did not bring the suggested four big-league players to face the Marlins on the road last week. Here is the lineup the Marlins brought to face the Red Sox on Tuesday. According to our Marlins depth chart, it looks like Miami has three Opening Day starters in today's lineup.

1. Donovan Solano, SS

2. Christian Yelich, LF

3. Marcell Ozuna, CF

4. Derek Dietrich, 2B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Brian Bogusevic, RF

7. Ed Lucas, 1B

8. Greg Dobbs, DH

9. Rob Brantly, C

LHP Brian Flynn

At Sarasota vs. the Orioles

1. Daniel Nava, 1B

2. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

3. Will Middlebrooks, 3B

4. A.J. Pierzynski, C

5. Ryan Lavarnway, DH

6. Corey Brown, LF

7. Alex Hassan, RF

8. Brock Holt, 2B

9. Deven Marrero, SS

SP -- Allen Webster, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: RHP Miguel Celestino, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Noe Ramirez and RHP Alex Wilson.