FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Greetings from the Fort, where the Red Sox and the Cardinals meet in a rematch of the 2013 World Series.
Or at least that’s what many of the fans at JetBlue Park will be talking about. It’s a nice little storyline. It conjures up warm-and-fuzzy memories of Boston Strong, The Bearded Boys of Summer and the 617 jersey at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And it contributed mightily to the game selling out as quickly as any game other than the Yankees and Phillies dates.
But you won’t hear Red Sox manager John Farrell or the players mentioning it.
They’re more worried about the present moment, which this morning meant optioning pitcher Allen Webster and catcher Christian Vazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket and reassigning shortstop Deven Marrero to minor-league camp.
“We’re thinking about being good today,” Farrell said. “Some of those words -- ‘defend’ and ‘repeat’ -- that looks back. Our mindset is, we have to go out and win. Whatever happens after that, if it ends up being something even more unique than a year ago, so be it.
“But there’s no focus or lost energy. We’ve got two weeks and a lot of work yet to do, the way things have gone. We’re getting our team together, and it feels like things are coming together. But we still have some work to do.”
His message to the team?
“Whether it’s from the first day of camp and what we’ve discussed or what’s been in conversation throughout the course of the entire offseason, that’s over,” he said.
The closest Farrell wants to go in getting nostalgic is discussing chemistry. It was phenomenal last year, and he said he expects it to be good again this year because of the high number of returning players.
“There’s a known commodity in our clubhouse,” he said. “Guys know one another. They’ve met challenges together. They’re good teammates and they buy into a team concept. It’s all focused on what we do to win today. And the more simplified and direct our mindset and approach is, then the personal agendas and egos kind of get checked and get put aside, and we’re about taking care of business today. I think it’s as consistent as last year.”
He believes it’s all about selecting the right players and then clearly outlining expectations.
“You’ve got to do your homework and due diligence about finding the right people that fit what you’re trying to establish and put together,” he said. “What Ben [Cherington] did with the roster last year, that’s where all this started. He selected the right people. And in combination with a committed coaching staff that was on board and on the same page with everything that we did when we walked onto the field ... it was a combination of all those factors that led to that team unity.”
Roster moves: Farrell talked about the three players involved in Monday’s moves.
On Webster: “I thought his spring training this year was more impressive than a year ago, when he was the talk of our camp. We’re seeing a guy who’s maturing on the mound -- the use of his two-seamer particularly, and the number of strikes in the bottom of the strike zone has been very encouraging.”
On Vazquez: “[I was impressed with] the progression with the bat, his willingness to go the other way with some base hits. He’s starting to impact the baseball a little more on some advantage counts. He has the ability to shut down a running game with the way he defends and the way he throws.”
On Marrero: “A well above-average defender. Last year, he had limited exposure to us while he was in big-league camp. This year, he’s a very good defender right now. And I think he’s settling into an approach at the plate that is not only consistent, but one that works best for him. He does have a tendency to tinker with things. He’s always searching for what the right feel is. But we’ve seen him the last five, six days really impact the baseball to the pull side.”
Papi plodding: After nine games, David Ortiz has two hits and is batting .080. Not that Farrell is concerned.
“More than anything, if we can get to roughly 50 at-bats in camp, that’s the goal,” he said. “Enough pitches where he’s seeing pitches, getting his timing down. And that’s a round number. That’s not to say we’re holding steadfast to that number. Last spring, he didn’t have any at-bats. And I think he was pretty good last year. So David is getting in shape to start the year.”
Day off: Will Middlebrooks (hyperextended finger) took batting practice and went through pre-game infield practice, but will not play Monday. “It’s the throwing where he feels it, more so than swinging the bat,” Farrell said.
Sizemore update: Grady Sizemore will start in center field Monday. Farrell said he could go back-to-back later this week with a minor-league game on Wednesday and a night game Thursday against the Yankees.
Here are Monday's lineups (1 p.m. start, on ESPN):
1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS
8. A.J. Pierzynski, C
9. Brock Holt, 3B
SP -- John Lackey, RHP
1. Kolten Wong, 2B
2. Jon Jay, LF
3. Daniel Descalso, 3B
4. Matt Adams, DH
5. Xavier Scruggs, 1B
6. Shane Robinson, RF
7. Peter Bourjos, CF
8. Tony Cruz, C
9. Pete Kozma, SS
SP -- Shelby Miller, RHP