Boston Red Sox: Steven Wright

Takeaways: Lackey sharp, Sizemore sizzlin'

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where John Lackey had what manager John Farrell called his "sharpest start of the spring," center fielder Grady Sizemore hit another spring training milestone, and left-handed reliever Craig Breslow showed progress coming back from a shoulder strain.

[+] EnlargeGrady Sizemore
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertGrady Sizemore has answered every test so far on his comeback quest.
The result: The Red Sox defeated the Minnesota Twins 4-1. Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-3 with a double and a triple, boosting his spring training average to .362. Mike Napoli singled and then scored on an A.J. Pierzynski double in the second inning. Xander Bogaerts doubled to left field in the seventh inning. Mike McCoy replaced Bogaerts as a pinch runner and then scored on a Middlebrooks double. McCoy and David Ross each hit RBI doubles in the eighth inning.

Lackey not lacking: Lackey struck out six over 6 1/3 innings, lowering his spring training ERA from 9.49 to 6.27 in his fourth appearance.

"It was his sharpest start of the spring," Farrell said. "He goes into the start of the season in very good shape. He had good power tonight. He had good action to his breaking ball, to his cutter and his curveball. We got him to throw 90-plus pitches. I think overall, a very productive spring for John."

Farrell said he has had no concerns with Lackey.

"His arm strength has increased," Farrell said. "He's always had the ability to throw the breaking ball for strikes. I think most importantly, he came off the last outing where he may have been going through a little bit of a dead-arm phase, which is common for everyone. But he was as sharp tonight as you probably saw midseason of last year."

Lackey said working with Pierzynski so far has gone well.

[+] EnlargeLackey
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJohn Lackey's last outing of spring training was his best.
"He called a good game," Lackey said. "We were on the same page. "With it being a night game, I went through my pregame routine, that sort of thing. I felt good."

Sizemore sizzle: Sizemore went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. He is hitting .333 this spring. After leading the team with 10 leadoff appearances in spring training, he hit from the No. 5 spot in the lineup on Thursday. Farrell said he likely would use Sizemore in the fifth or sixth spot when the season begins.

"He looks very good physically," Farrell said. "He was looking to steal a base as well. We shut that down. Left-handed and right-handed pitching, he had a good swing. He's in a good place."

Sizemore said he had no problem with where he hit in the lineup.

"I'm happy to be in the lineup, no matter where I'm at," he said. "I'm not going to change my approach, whether it's leadoff or fifth or wherever."

Sizemore played for the fourth consecutive day, which he had yet to do this spring. He is projected to get his fifth consecutive start on Friday against the Twins.

"It's good to get the reps," Sizemore said. "It's good to get to start on consecutive days. It gives you a better feel as far as the timing.

"It's a lot more action than I've had in a long time. You're going to have some bumps and bruises just as you would in any season or in any week. It's just baseball. But there are milestones there. I still feel good. I've got one more this week. I'm hoping to be able to continue to build off it."

Roster moves: The Red Sox placed Breslow on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 21) with a mild left shoulder strain. Right-handed pitcher Steven Wright was placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 21) while recovering from a right sports hernia. Farrell said he did not anticipate Breslow to be out of action for long. Farrell said he would announce more roster moves by the end of Friday. The team has 33 players in camp, including 28 players on the 40-man roster.

Minor league award winners honored

September, 22, 2013
BOSTON -- With the American League East wrapped up on Friday and baseball’s best record heading into the final week of the season, the sky is the limit for the 2013 Boston Red Sox season. Fittingly, Saturday marked the day that several of their top prospects were in the building as well.

Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero were each honored with awards Saturday for their achievements during the minor league season, meeting with the media in front of the Red Sox dugout an hour before the start of the night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Latin Pitcher of the Year Dedgar Jimenez and Latin Player of the Year Victor Acosta were also on hand for the event. Steven Wright was awarded the Lou Gorman award, which is given annually to the minor leaguer who demonstrates perseverance in making it to the majors.

“It’s a great day,” director of player development Ben Crockett said. “It’s an honor for these guys to get a chance to be recognized for the seasons that they had. I think certainly there’s some pride that goes in from my end and from all of us in player development, all the staff, for these guys to get a chance to be recognized for their accomplishments.”

[+] EnlargeHenry Owens
AP Photo/Ken Babbitt/Four Seam ImagesPitcher of the Year Henry Owens amassed a 2.96 ERA and 169 K's in 135 innings for Salem and Portland.
Headlining the class of prospects was Owens, whose 2.96 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 135 innings between the Advanced-A Salem Red Sox and Double-A Portland Sea Dogs made him an obvious choice for the award.

“I thought I made strides from [my] first season,” Owens said. “[Got] my feet wet the first season then came into spring training expecting to succeed, I guess. Ended up going up to Portland and succeeding there, too. It’s good but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

A supplemental first-round pick in 2011, the 6-foot-7 Owens put himself on the map this summer with an impressive stretch of no-hit magic that spanned 19 1/3 consecutive innings with Salem.

“I really didn’t think about it at all. I went out, threw, then at the end of my outings I’d go, ‘Oh, I didn’t give up a hit again,’” Owens nonchalantly said of the streak.

On July 31, Owens was promoted to Portland, where he allowed only six earned runs and struck out 46 in 30 1/3 innings to finish his spectacular season.

Defensive Player of the Year and fellow 2011 first-rounder Swihart had high praise for the 21-year-old Owens.

“He’ll be [in Boston] next year I bet,” Swihart said. “That guy’s amazing, gets all guys out with any pitch. Every pitch is his strength, he doesn’t have a weakness.”

Swihart is easy to trust when it comes to knowing Owens. The 21-year-old catcher from Bedford, Texas spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as Owens’ battery mate, catching nearly every one of Owens’ starts until his promotion. On Saturday the two spent most of their time together, Owens even pretending to hold a recorder and joining reporters while Swihart spoke.

“Anytime he pitched, I was catching,” Swihart said proudly of their time together in Salem.

Committing only 10 errors in 841 chances (.988 fielding percentage) and leading the Carolina League in both putouts and assists, Swihart played a strong role in Salem’s postseason run that culminated in a league championship. Swihart also topped the league in caught stealing percentage (42 percent).

“When I can throw someone out it’s all thanks to the pitcher, they give me the ball on time,” Swihart said. “The pitcher helps me out.”

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
AP Photo/Brian Westerholt/Four Seam ImagesOffensive Player of Year Mookie Betts hit .314 with a .417 OBP and 38 stolen bases for Greenville and Salem.
Meawhile, Betts was someone who wanted to help no pitcher out. A fifth-round pick in the same draft class as Owens and Swihart, Betts hit .314 in 127 games between Single-A Greenville and Salem. The 20-year-old second baseman also stole a system-high 38 bases, a feat helped by his impressive .417 on-base percentage.

“I take a lot of satisfaction in [this year] but you can never be completely satisfied until you make it to the bigs,” Betts said. “I was very surprised in myself. I learned that hard work in the offseason pays off and now with another offseason I’m ready to work hard and see what happens next year.”

The biggest surprise to Betts were his power numbers, hitting 15 home runs and 36 doubles on his way to the system’s highest slugging percentage (.506). Many tabbed Betts as one of the minor leagues biggest breakout players due to the improvements he made from his 2012 season (zero home runs in 71 games).

“Going through what I went through last year, I didn’t do that well and I knew as I was moving up it was only going to get harder,” Betts said. “Now that I’m here and I won [this award], I feel like I can hopefully keep doing it as I keep moving up.”

Betts was promoted from Greenville to Salem July 9, and his production didn't slow down at all. In fact, he posted better numbers, hitting .341 in 51 games compared to his .296 average in 76 games with Greenville.

“Swinging at good pitches is how you hit,” Betts said of his plate discipline. “It’s important to have good pitch selection, good pitch recognition, I feel like I do that pretty well. That’s how I have a little success.”

Marrero, named the system's top baserunner, had plenty of success swiping bags. The 2012 first-round shortstop was 27-for-29 in stolen base attempts between Salem and Portland this season, including a perfect 6-for-6 in 19 games with Portland.

“I learned a lot [this year]. Learned how to play a full season, how to play a lot of games and how to save my body and get my reps in,” Marrero said. “We have a great organization and they take care of me and they appreciate how hard I work and stuff like that. To get noticed for that is cool and I’m just happy to be in this organization and to play here.”

The 23-year-old Marrero earned his promotion to Portland Aug. 12.

“That’s what you want to do, you want to keep on moving up and get here and play in front of all these people and play for this city,” Marrero said.

Promotions have been somewhat of a theme for recent Red Sox minor league award winners as 2012 Pitcher of the Year Brandon Workman, Offensive Player of the Year Xander Bogaerts and Defensive Player of the Year Jackie Bradley Jr. all have made their major league debuts this season.

“They made significant strides handling promotion within the minor leagues very well and then obviously once they got in [Boston],” Crockett said. “The work ethic the players have put and the upper-level staff [preparing] these guys for that final step has been huge. Hopefully we can see that continue going forward.”

Although expectations run high for this year’s award winners, each was sure to enjoy the moment with their friends and family on Saturday, taking in the sweet feeling of standing on the field that they may soon call home. To get there, however, is easier said than done.

“I don’t really know where my ceiling is,” Owens said. “Just got to keep working hard, trying to get better every year.”

Once Owens and the other honorees make it to the big leagues is when those ceilings are sure to be discovered. Until then, the sky is the limit.

Sox recall three more from Pawtucket

September, 17, 2013
BOSTON -- The Red Sox recalled infielder Brock Holt and right-handers Brayan Villarreal and Steven Wright from Triple-A Pawtucket, and all three will be active for Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles. The call-ups bring the active roster to 36.

Holt is making his third appearance with Boston this season. He hit .203 with 11 RBIs and a stolen base in 23 games earlier in the year, playing both third base and second base. The 25-year-old hit .258 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 83 games for Pawtucket.

Villarreal, acquired in the trade that sent shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit, walked the only batter he faced in his lone stint with the Red Sox on Aug. 20. In 39 minor league outings between Pawtucket, Single-A Lowell and Detroit’s Triple-A Toledo, the 26-year-old was 2-3 with two saves and a 2.60 mark. Villarreal has struck out 86 batters in 75 innings in the majors.

Wright, 28, is 2-0 with a 5.40 ERA in four appearances with Boston, including a start at Houston on Aug. 6 in which he lasted just one inning. The knuckleballer went 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 24 starts during the regular season for the PawSox. He did not allow an earned run in 11 innings during Pawtucket’s postseason run.

Nava returns from paternity leave

August, 8, 2013
Daniel Nava rejoined the Red Sox on Thursday as the team activated him from the paternity leave list.

In a corresponding roster move, the Sox sent rookie knuckleballer Steven Wright back to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Nava, who had been on paternity leave since Monday, hasn't played since Aug. 2. Entering Thursday's game at the Kansas City Royals, he's batting .282 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs and 55 runs scored in 96 games.

He's batting seventh and playing first base Thursday night. David Ortiz gets the night off, with Mike Napoli at DH. Here's the lineup:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Jonny Gomes LF
Stephen Drew SS
Mike Napoli DH
Daniel Nava 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Brock Holt 3B

Jon Lester P

Farrell continues to juggle bullpen

August, 7, 2013
HOUSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell continued to juggle his bullpen on Wednesday to counter the piling injuries and fatigue.

Farrell said placing left-handed reliever Matt Thornton on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain was not something the team wanted to do, but had to out of necessity.

“When you get into the oblique injury, even though he feels improved from the time on Sunday when he first suffered the injury, this is something that we don’t feel like we want to rush with the potential of any kind of setback,” Farrell said. “The fact is, we also needed another arm in here after last night’s bullpen use.”

Steven Wright, who struggled to control his knuckleball in the indoor Minute Maid Park and lasted only one inning on Tuesday in his first career start, will move back to the bullpen, primarily as a long reliever, Farrell said.

The Sox also recalled right-hander Pedro Beato to replace Thornton on the roster.

Farrell was optimistic about what he saw from reliever Rubby De La Rosa in his Red Sox debut on Tuesday night. De La Rosa retired the side in the ninth inning, striking out two, in the 15-10 victory.

“In shorter stints, he does a great job of channeling the adrenaline,” Farrell said. “With that kind of power, it was very encouraging.”

Farrell didn’t rule out De La Rosa’s availability for Wednesday night’s game. He also mentioned the possibility of De La Rosa’s role expanding in the near future.

“Staying consistent with what we’ve done with other guys, as they pitch and gain confidence, their responsibility will grow,” Farrell said.

Sox tie record for passed balls

August, 6, 2013
HOUSTON -- The Red Sox tied a major-league record on Tuesday night, but not one they will celebrate.

Catching knuckleballer Steven Wright, Ryan Lavarnway had four passed balls in the first inning, marking just the third time in league history that four passed balls occurred in the same frame.

Despite using an oversized mitt, Lavarnway struggled to stay in front of the fluttering pitches. In his first big-league start, Wright had two walks, hit one batter, gave up a hit and quickly put the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole.

He was pulled after the first inning as reliever Brandon Workman took the mound.

The last time a catcher had four passed balls in an inning was Aug. 22, 1987, when knuckleballer Charlie Hough was pitching. Before that, knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm was on the mound when it happened in 1954.

Wright will make spot start Tuesday

August, 4, 2013
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell revealed before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks that Steven Wright will be starting Tuesday against the Houston Astros.

“Just trying to give guys an extra day of rest this time through,” Farrell said.

The 28-year-old Wright will be making his first career start. In three relief appearances this year, the knuckleballer has allowed five runs in 12 1/3 innings, most recently throwing three shutout innings and getting the win in the Red Sox’s improbable six-run ninth-inning comeback against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 1.

Farrell spoke about the improvements Wright has made this season.

“Just more consistent strike throwing,” Farrell said. “To me in some ways he looks like a completely different pitcher from that night that he followed [Alfredo] Aceves, that rain night against Oakland here, to what he’s been doing the last two outings. It’s a much improved Steven Wright.” Wright allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings in the game Farrell referenced.

John Lackey will take his normal spot in the rotation Monday, with Ryan Dempster being pushed back to Wednesday.

Wright rights ship, earns first MLB win

July, 11, 2013
SEATTLE -- As if throwing a knuckleball wasn't weird enough.

Red Sox reliever Steven Wright, recalled Wednesday from Triple-A Pawtucket, carried in an oversized catcher's glove from the bullpen and gave it to teammate Ryan Lavarnway when he replaced Ryan Dempster with one out in the fourth inning of the Red Sox's 8-7 win Thursday.

[+] EnlargeSteven Wright
Stephen Brashear/Getty ImagesSteven Wright earned his first major league win Thursday, pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Ryan Dempster.
"He brings that glove with him everywhere he goes," Lavarnway said. "It's his little buddy. He might be the only pitcher in the league that brings his own [catcher's] glove with him from the bullpen."

He is almost certainly the sole pitcher whose one major league appearance prior to Thursday was separated by nearly three months spent in the minor leagues tweaking a pitch so fickle that few try to throw it. After he surrendered five runs, six hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings during a 13-0 loss to the Athletics on April 23, the Sox sent him down.

"I had this stretch when I got sent down -- I was falling behind a lot so I was throwing a lot of fastballs and curveballs," he said Thursday after picking up his first major league win. "Over my four or five starts down there I was able to be more consistent within the strike zone. If I can throw quality knuckleballs within the strike zone and get them swinging, then most of the time the results will be better for me because they'll mis-hit it."

Mis-hit it the Mariners did -– to the tune of 5 2/3 innings without scoring a run. Mixing the occasional fastball with his knuckler, Wright maneuvered through the Mariners lineup by making in-game adjustments based off what he saw from the way each hitter approached his "out" pitch.

"I look more for balance and if they're taking a good swing," he said. "Not so much the contact but just the timing. For me that's the time when you add or subtract the timing of their swing. I feel like if they're on it, I'll maybe speed it up or slow it down to just mess with them a little bit."

Such is the tendency of knuckleballers. They must be cerebral, knowing where to start a pitch that can just as easily end at the backstop as it can the center of the plate. For Wright, it was just as important that Lavarnway caught him. The two have history together.

"I think it helped out a lot having [Lavarnway] back there," Wright said. "I threw to him quite a bit back in Pawtucket. He saw that I was a little bit antsy, and he was able to calm me down. It was comforting to me -- especially coming back to the big leagues."

When Wright entered, the Red Sox trailed and runners stood at first and second. Kyle Seager hit an RBI single, then both runners advanced on a wild pitch during Justin Smoak's at-bat. But Wright worked out of it, inducing Smoak to firmly ground out to Dustin Pedroia with the infield drawn in before striking out catcher Mike Zunino.

"He was the story of the day from the pitching side of things," manager John Farrell said. "To come in with some traffic on base and get out of that without too much additional damage -- compared to where he was the first time with us -- he (threw) more strikes and had much more consistent action to his knuckleball."

Wright added how it helped that every Mariners hitter was unfamiliar with his stuff.

"I think it's good for [me] because obviously it's an unconventional pitch," he said. "But they're big league hitters. They make the adjustment. They lock in on one spot and most of the time if the ball is in that spot, then they're going to hit it."

That never happened, and it allowed the 28-year-old to help the Red Sox capture their 19th series of the season and go 20 games over .500 (57-37). Wright said he plans to give the game ball to his parents.

The glove will stay with him.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where one intrasquad game in college at Rice University is all the third base Brock Holt ever played before Boston's 9-3 spring training loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargePedro Ciriaco
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsIs Pedro Ciriaco leading the race to be Boston's utility man?
Naturally, it took only two batters before Holt was tested, and he was equal to the task, diving to his left and spearing a ground ball by Andrew McCutchen, and throwing out the swift McCutchen with a strong throw across the diamond. In the fifth inning, he came in on a chopper and threw to second for a force.

And just like that, the battle was joined in earnest for one of the few jobs available on a Sox roster offering very little in the way of intrigue, other than the Big Question posed by Big Papi and his troublesome Achilles tendon.

The Sox are looking for a backup infielder who can play at least three positions, with bonus points if that player can also play the outfield. There are three candidates. The incumbent is Pedro Ciriaco, 27, whose fast start and impressive mugging of the Yankees masked the fact that he limped to the finish line, posting a .233/.269/.291/.560 line in the season's last month. There is veteran Drew Sutton, 29, who was with the Sox in 2011, played the infield for the Rays last season and the outfield for the Pirates, and has hit in spurts.

And there is Holt, 24, the other player in the deal that brought closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox from the Pirates. Holt stands nose to nose with Dustin Pedroia, and put up impressive on-base numbers during a rapid ascent through the minors that led to a late-season call-up to the Pirates.


Who should be the Red Sox's utility infielder?


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Holt is a shortstop by trade and has also played a lot of second, but had never played third until John Farrell started him there Wednesday afternoon. It won't be long, Farrell said, before the Sox take a look at Holt in center field, too.

"He's a good athlete, and he's shown a lot of good aptitude," Farrell said. "He's taken on third base, one new position. Gradually, we'll look to incorporate [center field] as well, but he made a couple pretty good plays today at third base."

Procedural matters favor Ciriaco, who is out of options and would have to pass through waivers for the Sox to send him back to the minors. Sutton is a non-roster player, which means the Sox would have to create a roster spot for him to make the team, which is not an enormous obstacle but would require some shuffling. Holt has options, which means the team could stash him in Pawtucket, have him play every day there, and be on call should the need arise.

That's why making a strong impression in camp is of some urgency to Holt, who suspects that the ability to play third behind Will Middlebrooks will be an important determining factor.

"I think it's huge," Holt said. "Obviously, right now it's just Middlebrooks. Ciri has proven he can play over there. He plays great defensively, no matter where he's at. The more positions I can play, the better.

"I'm coming here every day, trying to get as much work as possible at every position. If I'm at second in the morning, I'm trying to take ground balls at short and third after practice, trying to get as much work as I can. Hopefully, they see I'm working hard and starting to get more comfortable over there. I think it's been going good."

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsJon Lester had "four good innings of work" Wednesday, in Sox manager John Farrell's estimation.
* The novelty of having a knuckleballer in camp has been a popular storyline early, but Steven Wright, still a kid in knuckleballer years (28), very much remains a work in progress, one that Farrell said Wednesday will require patience. Wright was cuffed for five hits and three walks in two innings by the Pirates, who in his last outing had three hits and three walks while scoring two runs in 2 1/3 innings.

"Going back to the final inning in the previous outing and today, just not the consistent feel or the shape to the knuckleball," Farrell said. "It's one of those things where we have to be patient with the pitch and him as a knuckleball pitcher."

Farrell then cast the issue in terms suitable for discussion in a Harvard philosophy class: How do you perfect the imperfect?

"If you look at the bigger picture, he's at the early stages of trying to perfect this pitch, one which is an imperfect pitch," Farrell said.

* Hot prospect Rubby De La Rosa also had a flawed afternoon, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk.

* Jon Lester threw 52 pitches while giving up a run on two hits in four innings, walking three and striking out three. "Good four innings of work," Farrell said. "I thought he used his curveball more today than in the previous two outings. Part by design, part by situations that arose. Might not have been as sharp as his last time out, still 52 pitches in four innings, a good day of work for him."

Takeaways: Sox 4, Jays 2; Farrell booed

February, 25, 2013
Some takeaways from Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, where the Red Sox earned a 4-2 win over the Blue Jays.

* While John Farrell may dismiss facing his former team as “just another game,” fans have a different opinion. During batting practice and team introductions, a large contingent of the Toronto faithful in the crowd of 4,824 booed vociferously. Then, following the game, while Farrell was conducting his media session with reporters just outside the visitors' clubhouse, a fan who was exiting the stadium shouted: “You suck Farrell.”

[+] EnlargeJohn Farrell
AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan DenetteJohn Farrell said that facing his former team was no big deal, but apparently Jays fans felt differently -- booing him every chance they got.
Farrell didn’t initially acknowledge the man, but toward the end of the interview, the Red Sox skipper jokingly said, “OK, you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go meet up with my friend.”

Before the contest, Farrell had dismissed any notion of animosity over his signing to manage the Red Sox as part of an agreement that saw the Blue Jays trade RHP David Carpenter to Boston in exchange for infielder Mike Aviles.

“Well, if memory serves me correct, I was traded,” Farrell said when asked if he had any regrets leaving a team that made waves in the offseason with major acquisitions, including knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and shortstop Jose Reyes. “These questions were raised during the winter meetings, and I spent quite a bit of time talking about it at that time. To go back, my focus is on what the Red Sox need to do to get ready for this season.”

Farrell said he wanted to make the trip with the split squad of players -- the other half went to Port Charlotte to face the Rays -- so he could see knuckleball righty Steven Wright and the hard-throwing right-hander Allen Webster pitch.

“April will get here when it does,” Farrell said in reference to a rivalry brewing. “We’ve got a lot of work to do right now. I’m certainly not looking too far ahead. How that unfolds -- we’ll see. I fully respect that team. They’ve got a darn good team, and I look forward to competing against them.”

* Farrell used the word “impressive” several times in discussing Webster’s performance against the Blue Jays.

“Impressive arm strength with the ability to put away batters with a deceptive change-up,” Farrell said. “Very impressive. The finishing action on his fastball is as good as advertised. At times, they have a sink. And to have such deception with it, along with an impressive change-up, is very encouraging.”

Webster hit 96 mph consistently, topping out at 98, over two innings in which the 23-year-old right-hander allowed one run on two hits while striking out four, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie.

“Those are definitely the toughest hitters I’ve faced,” said Webster, who is being looked at for a rotation spot.

Webster, who was one of the players acquired in Boston's mega-deal with the Dodgers, allowed just two homers in 130 2/3 innings last year in 29 outings (24 starts) with the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of Los Angeles. He finished with 129 strikeouts while posting a 3.86 ERA.

“As the spring moves along and if he ends up starting the season in Triple-A, we will determine how things are, needs-wise,” Farrell said. “But his performance is very encouraging.”

* Farrell was also impressed with Wright, who is being considered for a rotation spot as well.

“The thing I liked the most is he didn’t take too long in between pitches to make decisions,” Farrell said. “That’s the sign of a pitcher understanding how to do things on the mound.”

Farrell said he is looking forward to Wright working with Tim Wakefield, who has been hired by the organization to work as a mentor to Wright.

“With every pitch thrown there will be the ability to see his delivery,” Farrell said. “One of the checkpoints Wake used so much was where his head position was in relation to where the ball was being released. I'm sure he'll be able to lock into the basic checkpoints he used. I think they are ones that are pretty common for most, if not all, knuckleballers. It will also give them something to discuss when they get into their side session on Wednesday.”

* Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to turn heads, going 3-for-3 and reaching base five times. The centerfield prospect scored in the first inning after reaching with a single to center, was hit by a pitch in the third, doubled in the fifth, walked in the seventh, and had a run-scoring single in the ninth. In doing so, he raised his on-base percentage to .750.

“He looks impressive at the plate and he also has shown the ability to run down balls in the outfield,” Farrell said.

The 22-year-old, who was drafted in the supplemental first round, batted .359 with a .480 on-base percentage in 67 games at Class-A Salem last year before being promoted. With Double-A Portland, he batted .271 in 61 games.

Wright happy to have Wake around

February, 25, 2013
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Tim Wakefield was in attendance at Florida Auto Exchange Park on Monday to watch fellow knuckleballer and Red Sox project Steven Wright for the first time.

"I haven't seen him on video, live, nothing," said Wakefield, who pitched for the Red Sox for 17 years before retiring prior to the 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeSteven Wright
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports "I was a little nervous, knowing I would be pitching in front of two of the best. Once I got settled in, everything went smooth," said Wright.
On Monday, he finally did and Wright turned in a nifty performance, striking out three and walking two over two scoreless innings.

Wakefield doesn't know just yet what his official title will be with the Red Sox, but he does know he will serve as a mentor to Wright.

Ironically, R.A. Dickey, the only active major league pitcher who throws the knuckleball as his primary pitch, started against Wright on Monday, when a split-squad lineup of Red Sox players beat the Blue Jays, 4-2. Dickey, acquired in the offseason by Toronto, gave greater credence to the knuckleball fraternity when he captured the 2012 National League Cy Young Award after striking out 230 in a 20-win season with the Mets.

"I was a little nervous, knowing I would be pitching in front of two of the best," said Wright, who tossed 40 pitches, 25 for strikes. "Once I got settled in, everything went smooth."

Wakefield said he will offer similar advice to 28-year-old Wright that he received from other knuckleballers like Joe and Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, and Tom Candiotti.

“The same thing guys before me offered me, just somebody to talk to who knows something about the pitch he’s throwing," said Wakefield, who turned to the knuckleball early in his career while with the Pirates. "When I was just coming up, I had pitching coaches that told me, I don’t know anything about it. It’s refreshing to be able to contribute to the legacy of a pitch by helping him out."

On Monday, Wakefield's abbreviated "classroom" time with Wright apparently paid off.

"He told me to move over to the first base side (on the mound) and to concentrate with leading with my foot when I make my delivery," said Wright, who began throwing the knuckleball two years ago in the minors. "It basically kept me centered. Pitching over in the center, I would sometimes land off to the third-base side and my pitches would go (high) or sometimes down (low). Then, I would have to make adjustments over the next three, four pitches. I don't see that happening now. Leading with the foot, as opposed to the body, helps me stay straight with my delivery."

Wright, who was acquired from the Indians for first baseman Lars Anderson last July, has yet to pitch in the majors. In his first full season throwing the knuckleball, he went 10-7 with a 2.54 ERA while striking out 119 with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

"It's a blessing to have Wake here," said Wright, who admitted being nervous pitching in front of Wakefield and Dickey. "It shows the organization believes in me and my talent to bring him in to work with me."

Wright, who expects to get a more intensive lesson from Wakefield on Wednesday, said he also benefitted from watching Dickey's preparation.

"It was good to see how he paces himself and watch the timing between his warm-ups and when he gets on the mound and how long he takes between pitches," said Wright. "It was hard to see the movement of his pitches from the side, but it was still good to see the way he works."

As far as Wakefield, the organization still needs to determine how he will be used this season.

“It’s up to the coaching staff,” Wakefield said. “I think it’s a great move on the organization’s part to bring me in. When I was here, we had guys like Luis Tiant and Jim Rice. It’s nice to add some more people to that list -- guys that knew what it meant to wear a Red Sox uniform and guys who knew what it meant to compete at the major league level for a long time. To be kind of a sounding board for guys. Hey, they’re not afraid to have extra coaches around. If I could get information from somebody else, why not? I think that’s a valuable asset the organization has taken pride in, bringing former guys in like Pedro [Martinez]. Our job is to help the Red Sox win, even though we’re not playing anymore. It’s to help them win. They understand that.”

Wake working with knuckleballer Wright

February, 25, 2013
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke with the media for about 15 minutes prior to Monday's contest against the Blue Jays, with whom he spent the past two seasons as skipper. The Toronto press joined the Boston corps to see what he had to say about facing his former team for the first time.

While Farrell offered a few gracious comments about his time with the Toronto organization, the former Blue Jays manager was firmly focused on the Red Sox.

“April will get here when it does," said Farrell, who was booed by Jays fans here. "We’ve got a lot of work to do right now. I’m certainly not looking too far ahead. How that (facing the Blue Jays) unfolds -- we’ll see. I fully respect that team. They’ve got a darn good team, and I look forward to competing against them."

Here are some other notable highlights:

* Red Sox righthander Steven Wright matched up against Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey in Monday’s game, a battle of two knuckleballers. Farrell said it was just a coincidence that two knuckleballers started against each other.

"We didn't call Toronto and ask if Dickey was going to pitch so we would match him Wright, so it's just coincidental," Farrell said when asked if the Red Sox planned on having Wright face Dickey. "It falls on the same day. So this is one of the rarities and really a unique opportunity to see two knuckleballers, one which obviously is a reigning Cy Young Award winner and one who is developing to hopefully become a big league pitcher."

Farrell was excited about Wright being able to gain some insight from former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who was on hand in Dunedin to begin his stint as a mentor to Wright.

"To have him in person, not only here in today's game to watch how these two innings will go, but also be with him in uniform when he throws his side, those interactions are invaluable," Farrell said. "I'm sure R.A. can probably speak to some of those interactions that Wake had when he was out in Seattle. It's such a tight-knit fraternity, to have a guy with him that's blazed a long successful trail ahead of him, I'm sure he'll take advantage of it."

Wakefield said it is the first time he has seen Wright pitch, either live or on video.

"I know he throws it hard, which is fine," Wakefield said. "I wish I could have thrown mine harder, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t blessed with the arm speed. R.A. throws his just as hard and he won the Cy Young. I told him, I don’t care how hard you throw it, I don’t care you hold it. The big key is regaining your delivery and taking the spin off it consistently."

* Offseason acquisition Mike Napoli (hip) will hit against Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz in a simulated game on Tuesday. Farrell projects that Napoli will be able to get some plate appearances in a spring training contest starting on Friday.

"We’ll increase the intensity on the basepaths between now and then, but everything looks in order for Friday," Farrell said.

Farrell said Napoli will play first and probably get a couple at-bats against the Pirates on Friday.

"Increased intensity on the field in the agility work," Farrell said. "He’s still according to his protocol. Still making progress there."

Buchholz will throw 35 pitches, essentially two innings, in the simulated game.

Buchholz, who strained his hamstring nearly two weeks ago, will be ready to start Saturday against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers.

Farrell said Buchholz will still be able to get six starts this spring.

* Craig Breslow, who has experienced shoulder discomfort throughout the early part of spring training, did not throw today, but Farrell said the pain has begun to subside.

"He continues to go through strengthening," Farrell said. "The discomfort he was feeling has really cleared up, but through the manual resistance tests, we’re still working to build that before we initiate the throwing program."

* Felix Doubront, who has also experienced shoulder discomfort this spring, is on schedule to throw live batting practice Monday and Wednesday and is projected to pitch in his first game next Monday.

Farrell said Doubront will have the opportunity to make six spring training starts.

Lineups for Red Sox-Jays split quad game

February, 25, 2013
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Here are the lineups for today’s split squad Grapefruit League tilt between the Red Sox and Blue Jays, a matchup that features knuckleballers starting for each team. Tim Wakefield is expected to be in the house as well:

Red Sox
1. Brock Holt 2B
2. Jackie Bardley, Jr. CF
3. Will Middlebrooks 3B
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
5. Lyle Overbay 1B
6. Mauro Gomez
7. Mitch Maier
8. Juan Carlos Linares LF
9. Pedro Ciriaco
SP -- Steven Wright

Blue Jays
1. Jose Reyes SS
2. Melky Cabrera LF
3. Jose Bautista DH
4. Edwin Encarnacion 1B
5. J.P. Arencibia C
6. Brett Lawrie 3B
7. Colby Rasmus CF
8. Moises Sierra RF
9. Lance Zawadzki 2B
SP -- R.A. Dickey

Wakefield to work with Wright

February, 17, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox minor league knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright says he’s anxious to work with former Red Sox knuckler Tim Wakefield.

Wakefield is scheduled to watch Wright pitch sometime next week.

“It’s nice to get another view, and what he did to make himself successful, and for him to pass it along to me, I’ll try to take as much as I can and implement it into my routine,” Wright said after throwing a live batting practice session on Sunday.

The Red Sox acquired the 28-year-old pitcher from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson at the July 31 trade deadline last summer. Wright began his Red Sox career with Double-A Portland and finished the season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Since age 9, Wright has messed around throwing the vintage pitch. When he began his pro career in 2007, he was a conventional pitcher in the Cleveland organization. It was known he could dabble with the knuckleball, so in 2010 he was asked to start throwing it more consistently.

“It took a lot of pride for me to do that,” Wright said. “I know at first, in 2010 when I first started throwing it, I told them I wasn’t going to be a knuckleballer, I’ll throw it as an out-pitch.”

In 2011, the Indians asked Tom Candiotti to work with Wright.

"He told me, ‘You should throw this all the time.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. I throw low to mid-90s.’ He said, ‘Hey, everyone throws in the low 90s.’ I started thinking about it, I did it all year and threw 85-percent knuckleballs and I didn’t like it. I hated it. It was depressing because I felt like I went from competing to knowing I’m out there throwing batting practice.”

Wright later played winter ball in Panama and decided to convert back to a fastball pitcher and use the knuckleball as his out-pitch.

In spring training of last season, he finally became comfortable with the pitch and now considers himself a full-time knuckleball pitcher.

“Now I feel like I can compete. I still feel like I can be aggressive with the knuckleball,” he said.

Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, participating in his first big-league camp, faced Wright during his BP session on Sunday.

“It was awesome. That was a lot of fun,” Marrero said with a laugh. “I was telling the catcher, ‘This is like a Wiffle Ball game.’ It was pretty cool. It was my first time facing a knuckleball. It was pretty fun just the way the ball moves. It’s different, man.

“It’s actually a quick knuckleball, it’s not a soft one. If it’s high, let it fly. If it’s low, let it go. I saw a couple up and took a couple of hacks. It was pretty fun,” he said.

Wright has already worked with Candiotti and fellow knuckleball legend Charlie Hough. While Wright has spoken with Wakefield in the past, the two have yet to work together. That will change next week.

Wake to work with Wright next week

February, 16, 2013
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pedro Martinez has been here. So has Jason Varitek. Now, John Farrell says, Tim Wakefield will be coming to camp.

Can Johnny Damon and the rest of the Class of 2004 be far behind?

Wakefield, who has been primarily working on the community relations side for the Red Sox since his retirement after the 2011 season and also has a reality TV series in which he teaches non-baseballers, like former NFLer Doug Flutie, how to throw the knuckleball, will be here sometime next week, Farrell said Saturday.

Wakefield's assignment is to spend time with Steven Wright, the 28-year-old knuckleballer the Red Sox acquired last summer from Cleveland. Wright figures to start the season as a starting pitcher in Triple-A Pawtucket.

"Wake and I had a lengthy conversation yesterday," Farrell said. "Wake will be here in about another week to work with Steven directly. Understanding what worked for Wake is not to say the same exact points for Steven. It's a very tight fraternity, that of the knuckleball pitcher, and to have Wake here as a resource, he's willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.

"It's a little premature to talk about Steven, just not knowing him all that well. It's going to take a few outings to understand what works well for him."