Boston Red Sox: Will Middlebrooks

Middlebrooks set to start rehab

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday that third baseman Will Middlebrooks will begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday.

Farrell said that the tentative schedule for Middlebrooks will be to play Monday, Wednesday and Thursday before being reevaluated in terms of a roster decision.

Middlebrooks was placed on the disabled list April 6 with a Grade 1 calf strain he sustained while warming up for an April 5 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Middlebrooks went 3-for-13 with a home run and an RBI in four games before his injury.

Outfielder Shane Victorino will join Middlebrooks in Pawtucket on Monday as he continues his rehab from a spring training hamstring injury.

Victorino, who played six innings in right field with the PawSox Saturday before being lifted for a pinch hitter, went 0-for-3 during his first rehab game. He’ll be expected to get four at-bats Monday and play nine innings Tuesday before being reevaluated.

Farrell said that Victorino could be activated Wednesday, prompting the need for the team to make a move regarding one of their outfielders.

“We’ve looked at every available combination of outfielders that are here with us and ultimately there will be a roster decision to be made,” Farrell said. “We’ll get to that in the coming week.”

In Victorino’s absence, the Red Sox have used nine different outfield combinations.

Sox recall 3B Holt, DFA Roberts

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox designated infielder Ryan Roberts for assignment on Friday and have recalled Brock Holt from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Holt, in Friday’s lineup batting ninth and playing third, is making his second trip to Boston this season, after having been called up April 6 for one game. Holt did not appear during his first stint, but manager John Farrell hopes that this time around he can provide an offensive spark for the club.

“We felt like we needed to try to create a little bit of a jump-start to the offense,” Farrell said. “We’ve come through a stretch of seven left-handed starters against us over the past 10 and we’re kind of reversing that right now, going against primarily right-handers.”

Holt, a left-handed hitter, has been off to a hot start for Pawtucket, collecting a team-high 19 hits in his first 50 at-bats on his way to a .380 batting average. Thirteen of his hits have come against right-handers, making him a valuable piece for the team; the Red Sox are lined up to face three right-handed starters during their four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

“He’s clearly earned the promotion here,” Farrell said. “When he was sent out, even after one day of being here with the big league club, I think he was initially disappointed, but he’s channeled that the right way, gone down and played very well on the left side of the infield.”

Roberts collected two hits in his 19 at-bats with the team, striking out seven times. Farrell said the team would like for him to remain in the organization following being placed on waivers.

“He had about a nine-day layoff from the end of spring training until he joined us here,” Farrell said. “We feel like he needs at-bats to get things going.”

Holt’s second stint with the club may also be for a short period of time because third baseman Will Middlebrooks (calf) is on track to start his rehab assignment sometime in the middle of next week. After dealing with the flu earlier this week, Middlebrooks was in the clubhouse Friday and has improved, according to Farrell.

Meanwhile, outfielder Shane Victorino (hamstring) is also with the club and is participating in a full team workout Friday. Victorino is expected to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

Uehara update: After pitching Thursday night for the first time since April 9, closer Koji Uehara is available if needed Friday night. Uehara, who missed a week battling shoulder stiffness, threw a scoreless ninth inning Thursday to notch his third save of the season.

Sizemore in left: For the first time in his nine-year career, outfielder Grady Sizemore will play left field at Fenway Park on Friday night. Farrell said that despite Sizemore's unfamiliarity with the Green Monster, the decision was made based on Daniel Nava’s ability to play right field at Fenway.

After making his first seven starts in center field, Sizemore will be making his sixth straight appearance in left this season.

Pedroia back to Boston for tests on wrist

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
NEW YORK -- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be returning to Boston for an examination of his sore left wrist, manager John Farrell said Sunday.

Pedroia was in the original starting lineup for Sunday night’s game against the New York Yankees, but was scratched about four hours before first pitch and replaced by Jonathan Herrera at second base. According to Farrell, Pedroia originally was injured last weekend during the Milwaukee series on a play at second base involving Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez, and the pain has increasingly worsened.

Pedroia is one of three Red Sox players scheduled to be examined Monday in Boston. Also scheduled to fly back were closer Koji Uehara and outfielder Shane Victorino. Uehara, who reported some stiffness in the back of his right shoulder and missed the last two games, conducted his usual long-toss session Sunday and felt better than expected, Farrell said. Assuming his exam goes well, Farrell said he expects Uehara to rejoin the team Tuesday in Chicago for the start of a three-game series against the White Sox.

Victorino, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, did some running again Sunday and is expected go out on a rehab assignment on Tuesday in Portland, provided he checks out OK in his exam, Farrell said.

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who is on the DL with a strained right calf, will accompany the team to Chicago and continue rehabbing his injury there, Farrell said. Middlebrooks is eligible to come off the DL next Sunday, when the Sox face the Baltimore Orioles in Fenway Park.

The injury to Pedroia now looms as potentially the most worrisome, given Pedroia’s aversion to missing time due to an injury. Last season, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb in the first game of the season, but postponed surgery until November and played 160 games, including the team’s first 70. He admitted to the injury only weeks after he hurt the thumb, confirming a published report.

Pedroia had surgery on his left wrist after the 2007 season to repair a fractured hamate bone, an injury with which he played for at least the season’s last two months. He also sprained the wrist making a diving catch in spring training, but was out just a couple of days.

After a fast start, Pedroia is batting just .139 (5-for-36) in his last eight games, Farrell saying his slump is directly related to his injury.

“He’s had increased symptoms of soreness in his left wrist,’’ Farrell said. “He went down to hit today and the soreness continues to persist, and probably gained in intensity.

“I think there’s probably a direct correlation to what we’ve seen at the plate. There hasn’t been an event the past couple of days that’s brought this onset further; it’s just everyday play. The soreness increases, it’s got to be checked out. Until we have some results or imaging of any kind, that’s the best I can tell you right now.’’
NEW YORK -- A few quick hits from the Bronx, where Shane Victorino was running what looked like "out" patterns on the outfield grass before the game, an indication that his recovery from a strained right hamstring is making progress.

• Manager John Farrell said that when the team travels to Chicago next week, the Sox should have a better idea of the next step for both Victorino and Will Middlebrooks (right calf), who are on the disabled list. Farrell has said that Victorino will be sent out on a rehab assignment; at the moment, he said, the right fielder is a bit ahead of Middlebrooks in his recovery.

Victorino is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. Middlebrooks is eligible to come off the DL on April 20, when the Sox are home to play Baltimore.

Jonny Gomes was back at the top of the order Friday night against a left-hander, CC Sabathia of the Yankees. Gomes, who is batting .174, will be making his fourth start in the leadoff spot, one fewer than Daniel Nava. Grady Sizemore has batted leadoff twice, including Thursday night, when he went 0 for 4.

Asked if he'd given any consideration to changing things at the top, Farrell said:

"We want to be careful that we don't make too many changes. The focus is on those three guys. I still like where we are 2 through 5, 2 through 6 with Xander [Bogaerts]. That's where we are, for the time being."

Jon Lester did not allow a home run to the Yankees in four starts last season, the only AL East team that did not take him deep last season. He went 1-1 with a 4.19 ERA in three starts last season in Yankee Stadium.

Xander Bogaerts's 11 hits through the first 10 games are the most by a Sox player 21 years or younger since Tony Conigliaro had 15 hits through the first 10 games of the '65 season, his second with the Sox.

• Grady Sizemore, who went 0 for 4 while batting leadoff Thursday against the Yankees, did not fare well against the Bombers in his years with the Cleveland Indians. Sizemore is batting .216 (33 for 153) against the Yanks, with four home runs and 12 RBIs. AL East teams across the board gave him trouble: He hit .218 against the Red Sox, .226 against the Orioles, .231 against the Rays, and .232 against the Blue Jays.

• Farrell said he was shown a still photo after the fourth inning of pitcher Michael Pineda's pitching hand, which showed a substance on the palm.

"When he came out to warm up in the fifth inning, it was very clear from the dugout that the hand was clean," Farrell said. That's why he did not bring it to the attention of the umpiring crew.

Farrell reiterated that it's not uncommon for a pitcher to use some form of additive to improve his grip on a cool night. Asked if he'd ever used anything when he pitched, Farrell said, deadpan: "Never."

"You'd like to think he'd be more discreet," Farrell said of Pineda, who won his first game as a Yankee Thursday night after missing all of 2012 with a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he spoke Friday with Joe Torre, MLB's executive director of baseball operations, and that the matter was "resolved." Cashman said he did not intend to speak with Pineda about it.

Middlebrooks sidelined by strained calf

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks will receive an MRI on a strained right calf Sunday, according to manager John Farrell.

Middlebrooks was scratched from the lineup Saturday night minutes before first pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers. He was replaced by Jonathan Herrera.

Farrell said Middlebrooks strained the calf during sprints prior to the game.

Middlebrooks homered in the home opener Friday and is 3-for-13 overall through four games.

Sox players support stiffer PED penalties

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB agreed to tougher penalties for first-time offenders testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The new penalty boosts the first-time offense suspension from 50 to 80 games and the second from 100 to 162, and also leaves players ineligible for postseason play for the season in which they are caught.

The handful of Red Sox players asked about the changes Saturday morning were overwhelmingly in favor of them.

"I like it," Jon Lester said. "Obviously, the 50 games wasn't enough to maybe make these guys think twice about it. Hopefully 80 games takes enough money out of these guys' pockets. You're still always going to have somebody who tries to beat the system. It doesn't matter if you put in a lifetime ban on the first offense.

"There's going to be guys who are going to try to get the run up on somebody. I think that's just kind of baseball. I think everybody's trying to look for that edge to get better. Hopefully this will weed out 99 percent of the guys."

Will Middlebrooks, the team's player-union representative, agreed.

"We go about it the right way, and we want to compete against guys who have done that," Middlebrooks said. "When you get to the World Series, you want to be competing against guys who have done it the right way."

Craig Breslow and Burke Badenhop, who each have been player-union representatives in the past, said they like the long-term ramifications of the increased penalties.

"I think guys were not entirely comfortable with players using them, getting caught and then playing in the postseason," Breslow said. "It was unclear if they were still benefiting from whatever they were taking."

Said Badenhop: "I'm a big fan, as a tall, skinny guy who struggles to put any weight on, to make the game cleaner and everything. It's great for baseball. I was a little kid growing up back when all the other stuff was happening. I think the last thing you want would be for that to happen again. It'll be the first step in making sure the game stays clean."

Takeaways from Fort: Sizemore lets loose

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where Grady Sizemore is playing with increasing abandon and no one is holding his breath, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks hit back-to-back home runs in a display of power sure to be repeated when the games count, and Jon Lester said he was told some time ago that he is starting the regular-season opener but Farrell pledged to wait one more day to make it official.

The result: The Red Sox fell 5-4 to the Baltimore Orioles, who scored all of their runs and collected all 11 of their hits off rookie Allen Webster, who started the big-league exhibition while Lester worked a Class A minor-league game, allowing a run on three hits while pitching for Salem. Left-hander Chris Capuano, meanwhile, pitched five innings of no-hit ball for Class A Greenville, striking out 10.

The highlight: The back-to-back home runs struck by Bogaerts and Middlebrooks in the fourth inning off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, both of which cleared the faux Monster in left. The home run was a team-leading fourth of the spring for Middlebrooks, who also singled and is batting .341.

[+] EnlargeSizemore
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsGrady Sizemore was out trying to stretch a single, but his aggressive baserunning was another good sign of his readiness for the season.
The Sizemore sizzle: The center fielder singled in his first at-bat, then tried to hustle his way into an extra base, taking a head-first slide into second as he was cut down on a close play by right fielder Henry Urrutia. Next time up Sizemore walked and came around to score on a single by Mike Carp, sliding into home. He lined out to left in the fourth and reached on a force play in the seventh. Farrell said the Sox were looking for Sizemore to steal, but pitcher Ryan Webb didn’t give him a chance.

“We’ve talked about it as we progressed in camp,’’ Farrell said when asked if he was taking the wraps off Sizemore, who played in what is scheduled to be the second of three straight games. “Early on we didn’t want any added attempts, and then once he was coming out of games feeling good physically, we started to loosen the reins on that and today that aggressiveness has become a little more evident.

“He was more engaged in the game situation and nothing physically was keeping him from trying to advance 90 feet.’’

The X files: Bogaerts narrowly missed a home run in his first at-bat, a strong cross breeze knocking the ball down, but then hit one over the faux Monster in the fourth, his second home run of the spring. He is ending camp making consistently hard contact, his average now up to .234.

JBJ report: Like Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr. was scheduled for just two at-bats. He grounded out and struck out. His average is down to .167 which, it should be noted, places him at a near midpoint between Jonny Gomes (.159) and Mike Napoli (.188).

Opening Day “secret”: In fairness to the Red Sox manager, Farrell repeatedly has said the rotation was set up this spring the way he intends to deploy it once the season begins, but until he has a chance to visit with Lester on Thursday, the day after he went six innings in a Class A game and allowed a run on three hits, he will hold off on making it official.

This is no different from the way Farrell proceeded in 2013, though Lester admitted Wednesday that Farrell told him earlier in camp that he’d be facing the Orioles on March 31 in Baltimore. The message was delivered in a more conventional fashion -- the two sitting in the manager’s office -- than when Lester was sitting in a deer stand and received a text message from Terry Francona that he’d be pitching the opener in 2011, the first of what will now be four straight Opening Day assignments.

“When the manager sits down and tells you face to face, that’s a good feeling to have,’’ Lester said. “Tito has his own way of doing things, which was cool that day. That was a great story I’ll always remember, but at the same time it’s nice to sit in that office.

“It was one of those things he sat down with me, we were BS-ing about something, he just told me that. I don’t remember the exact date.’’

Lester threw 95 pitches in the Class A game. “I feel like I’m in a good place right now,’’ he said, though he indicated that he felt his curveball had “dragged for me’’ this spring.

“I don’t know if it’s arm strength, repetition, but it will come,’’ he said. “I’ll keep throwing it. It’ll be there.’’

Lester spoke about the eagerness some players have to begin the regular season, so they can begin to feel intensity that has been absent since they won the World Series.

“I live in an area [Atlanta] where people don’t care,’’ he said. “If you’re not a Brave, they don’t know who you are. It’s weird to go to Publix and walk around the grocery store and not worry about anything, go out to dinner.

“You go off that high from the duck boats, where everybody is screaming at you, to now you get just your 3-year-old screaming. It’s a little different.’’

You’ve never seen Lester in a grocery store? “I’m an awesome shopper,’’ he said.

Dot, dot, dots: Despite Wednesday’s result, Farrell said Webster is “much further along” than he was at this point in camp last spring. “Further along in areas where he’s more understanding of the type of pitcher he is, a better understanding of how to use his two-seamer particularly, even if location may have been a little bit less than it was in a couple of starts he made here, but I see him much further along. Last year, he was the talk of camp, coming in late in a game, pitching a couple of innings, but the ability to make adjustments more readily and the overall use of his stuff is much more refined to attack a hitter.’’ ... The Sox are expected to make final roster cuts Thursday. The only decision they may hold off on announcing is center field, waiting to see how Sizemore comes through Thursday night’s game against the Twins. The Sox still have 35 players in camp, including five nonroster invitees.

Takeaways from the Port: Grady does deep

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Port, where there are some things a ballplayer does not forget, even if it’s something he may not have done in nearly a thousand days.

So when Grady Sizemore broke out his home run trot for the first time this spring -- and the first time in 984 days, his last home run having come on July 15, 2011 -- he didn’t need any remedial instruction. He knew what to do.

The result: With Clay Buchholz going six innings for the first time this spring, the Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, their second win in the last 10 games. The Rays had entered the game with a 15-5-3 record, the best in the majors, and had gone 10-2-1 in their previous 13 games. The last two times the Rays finished with the majors’ best record in spring, they won the AL East. The Sox are 9-15-2.

[+] EnlargeGrady Sizemore
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesGrady Sizemore hit his first home run in 984 days, a sixth-inning shot off lefty Cesar Ramos.
The Sizemore report: “It felt good,’’ Sizemore said after hitting a first-pitch fastball from Tampa Bay left-handed reliever Cesar Ramos over the boardwalk beyond the right-field fence in the sixth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie.

As he circled the bases, Sizemore had to know he was one step closer to being named the team’s Opening Day center fielder in Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the place he hit his last home run in a game that counted, a two-run home run off right-hander Jake Arrieta of the Orioles.

But Sizemore said he has not yet allowed himself to think in those terms, even though he answered in the affirmative when asked if he thought he was ready to play in the regular season.

“Honestly, I’m just trying look to the next day and not get ahead of myself,’’ Sizemore said.

“I feel good. I’m happy with how everything has gone in a short period. I didn’t expect to feel this good or this good so soon. I’m happy with that aspect. But we’re all professionals. We all want to be better.’’

The home run was Sizemore’s only hit in four at-bats Tuesday. He hit in the fifth spot in the lineup after leading off in his previous appearances. In his last at-bat, he went down swinging against the 96 mph offerings of Rays lefty Jake McGee, but only after a good at-bat in which he fouled off a couple of pitches.

“Even against McGee when he strikes out, there’s a lot of balance at the plate,’’ manager John Farrell said. “We’ve talked a number of times about timing at the plate, and he continues to show it.’’

Earlier in the day, Farrell indicated the Sox would leave camp with either Sizemore or Jackie Bradley Jr., not both.

This was the first of three consecutive games in which Sizemore is scheduled to play. He is batting .303 this spring.

“The way we’re seeing the ball coming off his bat almost week at a time, starting the week before camp, opening up to game action, you’re seeing more and more good days for him,’’ Farrell said.

“It was a good day overall. To see the at-bats Will [Middlebrooks] had today, Bogie [Xander Bogaerts], the guys that came to the mound, those are our guys.’’

Will watching: Middlebrooks homered off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi, singled and drove a ball deep to right on which Rays right fielder Wil Myers made an excellent catch. The Sox third baseman, who also drew a walk, is batting .317 this spring and has struck out just three times in 44 spring at-bats, a trend the Sox would love to see continue in the regular season.

Clay feat: Buchholz gave up all three hits he allowed in the third inning, when he also walked a batter and the Rays scored twice, then retired eight straight before issuing a two-out walk in the sixth to Ben Zobrist. He finished off his outing by inducing Evan Longoria to ground out to Middlebrooks, one of seven ground-ball outs he recorded to go with five strikeouts. He threw 84 pitches, 50 for strikes.

This was Buchholz’s last exhibition appearance. He’ll remain behind to throw in a camp game Sunday, then fly to Baltmore to join the team before Monday’s opener. Jon Lester, John Lackey and Felix Doubront are lined up to pitch the three games in Baltimore. Jake Peavy is in line to draw the assignment in the April 4 home opener against the Brewers, with Buchholz going the next day. All of that is subject to weather, of course, and everyone remaining upright, one reason why Farrell has refrained from officially announcing Lester will pitch the opener.

“Clay made a good adjustment after the third inning,’’ Farrell said. “The first couple of innings he tended to drift a little bit. The fourth, fifth and sixth, he threw a lot of good curveballs and was down in the zone. The thing that stands out over the course of spring training is he looks very comfortable on the mound. He used all of his pitches. He had a little more feel for his curveball today than in previous outings.’’

Buchholz said he also broke out his changeup in a game for the first time this spring, with positive results. He said he is comfortable maintaining his velocity at around 91-92 mph, in part because he believes it gives him better command and more movement on his two-seamer. “But when I needed a little extra,’’ he said, “I was able to reach back for it.’’

JBJ report: The rookie played alongside Sizemore in right field because Shane Victorino stayed back in Fort Myers with some soreness on his left side, which Farrell described as minor. “He had a full workday,’’ Farrell said of Victorino, “and came out of it fine.’’

Bradley, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 and struck out twice. He’s now batting .173 this spring, with a team-high 16 strikeouts, three more than Mike Carp.

“He’s missing some pitches in the strike zone,’’ Farrell said of Bradley. “I can’t say he’s trying to do too much. Sometimes there’s a good compact swing, and then the swing is a little long at times. Nothing drastic. A little timing right now.’’

Takeaways from Port: Webster getting there

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Port, where Rays pitcher David Price shaved his head before the game and then sheared off the Red Sox bats in a blistering performance.

The result: The half-strength Red Sox were pummeled, 8-4, by the full-strength Rays on a wind-whipped Sunday afternoon before a Charlotte Sports Park record crowd of 7,852. The Red Sox are now 7-10-1. The Rays jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind the hitting of James Loney (3-for-4, double, 4 RBIs) and Ben Zobrist (2-for-3, double, RBI). The Red Sox rallied with two runs in the seventh (both charged to Price after he left) and two in the ninth. Ryan Lavarnway was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Fortune favors the bald: Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner, doesn’t need a bald head to be effective. In two previous spring starts, he had given up just three hits and one run while striking out eight in five innings.

But what the heck. It sure didn’t hurt.

Prior to the game, he was one of two dozen players and staff to have their heads shaved to raise funds and awareness for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

[+] EnlargeAllen Webster
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertAllen Webster said his outing on Sunday was helped because he wasn't thinking about his mechanics.
Once he took the mound, he didn’t allow a hit until Jonathan Herrera beat out a two-out infield grounder in the third. In 6 2/3 innings, he gave up just three hits, walked one and struck out seven.

“He was pretty good, wasn’t he?” said Red Sox catcher David Ross, who went 0-for-3 against Price. “He was good. That’s why he’s David Price. That’s why he gets all the awards. He’s pretty good.”

He also received some outstanding defensive support. In the fourth, left fielder Logan Forsythe made a spectacular diving catch near the warning track on a hooking drive by Mike Napoli.

Making progress: Red Sox starter Allen Webster took the loss, but he pitched well (four innings, three hits, two earned runs) and was hurt by some shaky defense (errors by Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt in the second).

“I like that he has a two-seamer now that’s really, really sinking well,” Ross said. “And he’s starting to pitch with it. We didn’t even use the breaking ball or slider that much. We went with sinker/changeup. I think he’s going to be really special here soon. You’re going to hear some things out of him.”

Webster said he’s improved this spring because he’s not trying to overpower hitters with a four-seamer.

“Mainly, this spring I’ve been working on my mechanics, staying back, not drifting forward and being able to repeat the two-seam down the middle,” Webster said. “I’m making good progress.

“Today was one of the first days I was out there and I wasn’t thinking about [mechanics] at all. I was just out there throwing and they were going down in the zone. I’m real happy with it.”

On the other hand: The game got out of control when Drake Britton replaced Webster in the fifth after Webster walked leadoff batter Ryan Hanigan. Britton gave up three hits and served up a wild pitch in the fifth, then gave up another three runs in the sixth before he was lifted with two outs.

“As much as it sucks to go through an outing like that, it’s good as well,” Britton said. “Gives me discipline to do the things I need to work on and the things I’ve got to do to get myself ready for the season.”

Truncated day: After sitting out two games with a hyperextended finger, Middlebrooks started at third base but lasted just two innings, going 0-for-1.

Middlebrooks felt some discomfort during pregame infield work and decided not to push it too hard.

“I got out there just to feel things out,” he said. “It’s still a little sore. We talked about it and said, ‘Now is not the time to grind through things. Let’s just get it where it needs to be and we’ll be fine from there.’”

Breaking it down behind the plate: Manager John Farrell said that when team officials discussed a free-agent contract with A.J. Pierzynski in the offseason, they made it clear to Pierzynski that they viewed Ross as more than a traditional backup catcher in terms of games played.

[+] EnlargeWill Middlebrooks
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertWill Middlebrooks' return lasted only two innings, but he said he was just playing it safe.
“We view the position as a two-man position, so if that’s a 160-game split between the two, 110 and 50, I don’t know the exact number,” Farrell said. “There’s going to be some matchups mid-week that we might want to take advantage of a combination of a guy on the mound and David on the plate. And A.J. and David are both well aware of that.”

At least for now, Farrell said Ross will not necessarily be the catcher every time Jon Lester starts, even though that worked well in the postseason.

“You look always for the best combination, but you don’t want it to become where you’re married to it,” Farrell said. “Then you become inflexible to other options and matchups that that might be advantageous. David Ross is going to catch all our starters.”

He said the beauty of Ross’ defensive prowess is his ability to frame pitches and get the borderline strike call from umpires.

“He’ll position himself behind the plate to give the umpire a little bit different view, so there are times when he’s going away from a righthander and he’ll angle his body a little bit differently to allow that umpire to see over his shoulder a little bit more,” Farrell said. “And he’s able to get some called strikes out there where maybe the guy that blocks him off [creates] the dark area out there and the umpire can lose the flight of the ball. So his framing ability is well above average.”

Roster cuts: Farrell said additional roster cuts could be made before Tuesday’s game in Tampa against the Yankees. “With minor-league games beginning and their season fast approaching, there’s some guys in camp that we’ve got to start getting at-bats on the other side, as well as innings pitched,” he said. “There’s some guys who need to go get ready for their season.”

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. was 1-for-3 with a double and a strikeout.

“I thought Jackie’s at-bats were very good today,” Farrell said. “He stayed on some fastballs away from him and he laid off some tough pitches in, even after he gets hit in his first at-bat.”

Before the game, Farrell talked about what he wants to see from JBJ the rest of the spring: “Quality at-bats. That’s not hinged to a batting average. That’s just putting up quality at-bats as consistently as possible. Defensively, there’s nothing to suggest he needs development or that area of the game. We’re confident in him. But it’s quality at-bats, getting on base and finding the spots to be a little more aggressive on the basepaths. Just using his skill set.”

X file: Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip. Farrell suggested that while it’s possible that a “demanding spring training” has affected his hitting (.130), he likes what he’s seeing. He said that there was a moment during Saturday night’s game when both he and infield coach Brian Butterfield watched Bogaerts in the field and knew that the work has paid off.

“It’s not that we’re doing things extremely or altogether different than the minor leagues are, but there’s a lot of expectations on him,” Farrell said. “He does not take anything for granted, so in all the work sessions that he’s in, he’s full go. I’m not going to say that’s taking away from his at-bats, but he has had a demanding spring training and one that we feel like he needs. But at the same time, you watch his body language, and he’s much more free and relaxed because of all the work and all the conversations that have gone into the position.”

The dot, dot, dots: John Lackey goes against the Cardinals in Monday’s 1:05 p.m. game at JetBlue Park (televised on ESPN), backed by Rubby De La Rosa, Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Shelby Miller starts for the Cardinals. ... Felix Doubront will start on Tuesday in Tampa against the Yankees, backed by Brandon Workman, Dalier Hinojosa, Tommy Layne and Rich Hill. Michael Pineda starts for the Yankees. ... The Red Sox came into Sunday’s game tied with the Nationals with 19 home runs -- two more than they had in the entire spring a year ago. ... Sunday’s game was the fifth of seven Red Sox spring training games to feature instant replay. ... A group from the Jimmy Fund is in Fort Myers for the weekend. They watched Saturday’s game and took batting practice Sunday morning at JetBlue Park.

Takeaways: Lester, Lee lock horns in duel

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where a couple of 30-something lefties were locked in a pitching duel worthy of a midseason interleague game, Burke Badenhop was most definitely not locked in and Will Middlebrooks talked about being locked in.

[+] EnlargeLester
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsJon Lester gave up one run in four innings against the Phillies.
The result: The Red Sox were beaten by the struggling Phillies 4-1 and fell to 7-9-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 9,726 at JetBlue Park. The Phillies came into the game with a 4-11-2 record and a baseball-worst .212 batting average (20 points lower than the second-worst team, the Red Sox), and astoundingly had been held to one or fewer runs in six games. But once Red Sox starter Jon Lester left the game after having given up just one run in four innings, they went to work. The Red Sox got on the board in the seventh when Jonny Gomes launched a 0-1 pitch from Phillippe Aumont over the Green Monster for his first homer of the spring.

Locking horns: Phillies lefty Cliff Lee is a famously quick worker. For Lester, getting locked into this duel wasn't such a bad thing.

"You find yourself sometimes trying to match his rhythm and tempo, and it's one of those deals [where] he's special because of that," Lester said. "I don't think anybody can replicate that. It's his style, and it's worked for him for a long time. But you have to sometimes go out there and go, 'Slow down. You don't have to be Cliff Lee and go that fast.' But at the same time, it helps you speed up, too. It's fun to watch a guy like that, especially how well he throws strikes."

In his second start of the spring, Lester was almost as good as in the first. He threw strikes on 44 of his 68 pitches, giving up just two hits -- a single to Ben Revere to lead off the game and a run-scoring double to Marlon Byrd two batters later.

"That first inning kind of killed me," he said. "I would've liked to have gone into the fifth and saved some pitches there, but all in all, the biggest thing is getting up and down, getting to your pitch count and staying healthy. Those are our goals in spring training. And just keep working on fastball command, and the other pitches off of that will take care of themselves."

Lester said he feels a lot better this spring because he's not immersed in mechanics, as he was last spring. Everything is more natural.

"You're not going out there every pitch, analyzing mechanics: 'Why did I throw that ball downhill? Why did I miss?'" he said. "It's just more of getting back to being a pitcher and focusing on getting the hitter out, whoever that may be. When you're able to do that, your mind is on the right thing. You're not sitting out there, worrying about your leg kick and worrying where your hands are.

"This is obviously a different point for me than last year. My bullpen work has been a lot more crisp and I've gotten a lot more out of it. This year in games I'm working on commanding the baseball, as opposed to a bunch of other things going through your head."

Manager John Farrell said Lester continues to "show good power through the strike zone."

Bad day for Badenhop: The pitching duel was doused when Badenhop entered in the fifth with the Phillies leading 1-0. Cesar Hernandez hit a one-out single, went to third on a single by Wil Nieves and scored on a double by Revere. Jimmy Rollins drove in Nieves on a groundout and Byrd followed with a run-scoring single.

Badenhop had previously pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDustin Pedroia's influence has helped Will Middlebrooks improve his approach.
The power of Pedey: Middlebrooks looks like a different player this spring. After an injury-plagued season in which he hit .227 and spent time at Triple-A Pawtucket, he's hitting .320 with two home runs and five RBI in nine games.

"I'm not getting tricked up there," he said. "I'm seeing every pitch. I'm not guessing. I'm letting my eyes and hands work together."

He said he's not going to divulge everything about his approach, but he is doing a better job of recognizing his strengths and weaknesses.

"Let's say a guy has a good sinker," he said. "He's going to throw that sinker, and a lot of times it's going to be for effect. It's not going to be a strike. It's going to look like a strike and end up being off the plate. You try to eliminate that. Same with a guy who's got a good cutter. He's not going to throw many for strikes. They're for swing-and-misses. It's an 'out' pitch. Knowing a guy's 'out' pitch -- how he gets guys out -- and just laying off it."

He said he was overaggressive last year-not necessarily trying to hit home runs, but trying to hit the ball hard.

"There wasn't much thought process that went into my approach," he said. "I don't think I was consistent with my approach. It was more or less going up trying to hit the ball hard. And you can't do that at this level. You have to have a plan, because the pitchers have a plan.

"I learned a lot more last year than I did in my first year when I hit .290. That's just part of growing as a player. I talked to Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], all these guys in here. They said, 'We've all been through it. We've all struggled. At this level, that's going to happen at one point or another.' There's a slight few guys it never happens to, and those guys you see on a plaque in Cooperstown. But even those guys, look at David [Ortiz]. As great as he is, he's had months where he didn't do well. It's just part of the game. Those pitchers are out there for a reason. You just try to stay as consistent as you can."

He credits Pedroia for sharpening his approach in offseason conversations.

"All of you guys know how confident he is," he said of the second baseman, who's listed generously at 5-foot-8. "He's 5-foot-1, and he's the most confident guy in here. You can trick yourself. You really can. It's such a mental game. As much as it is physical, it is a mental game. You may have only 70 percent to give out there, but I feel like you can trick yourself on a daily basis. Getting yourself ready to play, getting in the right state of mind, because you're not always going to feel good. He knows how to get himself ready for the game every day.

"That guy works harder than anyone I've ever been around. He's here at 3:30 every morning watching video. Is he nuts? Maybe a little. But he's great for us and he's great for this team and this organization."

Going deep: Farrell, asked if the team's home-run surge (18, second-best in baseball going into the game) was due to hitters getting the green light or some other factor, quipped, "We don't have a home-run sign. They're going up to put their best swing, their 'A' swing, on pitches they have in the strike zone, and some have traveled out of the ballpark."

Nothing more than caution: The Red Sox have been cautious with pitcher Craig Breslow in the wake of his increased workload last season. Although he still has not made an appearance, Farrell said he is in good position.

"He had a very good bullpen yesterday," Farrell said. "We're anticipating he'll see hitters by the second half of this week and soon to be in a game."

Breslow didn't pitch in spring training last year due to shoulder inflammation, but had a 1.81 ERA in 61 appearances.

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. was given the night off as Grady Sizemore started in center field. Bradley is hitting . 167 in 30 at-bats, with a double, triple and four RBI.

Sizemore played eight innings and went 1-for-4. Farrell said he had no issues with his knees, "got down the line with good energy" and took "another positive step."

Farrell said the goal ultimately is to spend less time worrying about his physical well-being and more about evaluating his skills, but they're not there yet.

"I don't know that we completely separate the two at this point, given what he's come through," he said. "I think each day he walks onto the field, he's answering the physical side of it. Given all he's come through, we have to continue to monitor that as we go forward-much like we would monitor any other physical issue with another guy."

X file: Xander Bogaerts was 0-for-3 with a strikeout and is now hitting .130 in 23 at-bats, but Farrell believes he's headed for a big year.

"The beauty of it is he hasn't taken anything for granted," Farrell said. "Just by reading his comments, he's hopeful to make the team. Well, damn, so am I. But you know what? The work he's done with Butter [infield coach Brian Butterfield] ... we feel very comfortable with him at shortstop. He has a chance to be an outstanding one."

The dot, dot, dots: Allen Webster starts for the Red Sox in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. game against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Also scheduled to pitch for the Red Sox: Drake Britton, Rich Hill, Francisco Cordero and Brayan Villareal. David Price starts for the Rays. ... John Lackey goes against the Cardinals in Monday's 1:05 p.m. game at JetBlue Park (televised on ESPN), backed by Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller. Shelby Miller starts for the Cardinals.

Takeaways from Sarasota: Going deep

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Takeaways from Sarasota, where the Red Sox used a wind blowing out to left to produce three homers, A.J. Pierzynski demonstrated opposite-field power and the host Orioles scored two runs without hitting the ball.

The result: The Red Sox defeated the Orioles, 6-5, before a crowd of 7,647 at Ed Smith Stadium, the second sellout of the spring at the O's spring home -- both with the Sox in town. Will Middlebrooks, Brock Holt and Ryan Lavarnway each hit solo dingers for the Sox, while Pierzynski went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI single. The Orioles benefited from three consecutive walks by Sox starter Allen Webster and a wild pitch by reliever Alex Wilson to plate two runs in the fourth inning.

On top of their game: Several players had solid offensive days in Sarasota, including the top four in the lineup.

Daniel Nava went 2-for-4 with two doubles as the leadoff hitter, Jackie Bradley had a run-scoring triple and a walk in a 1-for-3 day, Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 to raise his spring average to .318 and Pierzynski looked solid at the plate and behind it.

[+] EnlargeA. J. Pierzynski
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesA.J. Pierzynski had three opposite-field hits Tuesday, including a double in his first at-bat.
"A lot of good at-bats," manager John Farrell said. "Once again, Daniel Nava -- his typical approach, all fields. He's going to hit pitches whether located in the strike zone. A good day with A.J. behind the plate and also offensively. Will continues to improve and profiles exactly what you'd want from a third baseman. Jackie is beginning to see the ball better as he gets more at-bats. It's good to see timing becoming a little bit more consistent as we get to this point of the spring."

After hitting a double off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez down the left-field line in his first at-bat, Pierzynski had two more opposite-field hits in his final two plate appearances, both singles. His single in the third inning resulted in the second run for the Sox after Holt ripped a line drive over the left-field fence for his first home run of the spring.

Middlebrooks hit his second homer of the spring, both off of Orioles righthander Tommy Hunter -- the first came three days ago in Sarasota. The solo shot in the sixth gave the Sox a 3-2 lead before the Orioles evened things in the bottom half of the inning.

"I'm not trying to hit home runs," Middlebrooks said. "I'm just trying to stay in the middle of the field more."

Middlebrooks earlier created a highlight-reel day reminiscent of his high school days at Liberty Eylau in Texarkana, where he played primarily as a shortstop before being drafted by the Sox in 2007.

With the Orioles' J.J. Hardy on first and no outs, Middlebrooks was positioned at the shortstop location in a shift during Matt Wieters' at-bat. Wieters hit a slow roller that got past Webster toward a charging Middlebrooks, who quickly corralled it with his glove and flipped it to shortstop Deven Marrero at second for the force out.

"My dad's here and he'll probably get on me for trying to be a prettyboy," Middlebrooks joked. "It goes back to my high school days when I played shortstop. Didn't really think about it, just did it."

In the seventh, Holt (2-for-3) started the inning with a double and came around to score on a one-out double by Nava. Bradley then tripled home Nava.

"It was nice to finally get one," said Bradley, who raised his spring average over the Mendoza line to .208.

Webster wows, then walks one after another: Webster continues to make his case for a spot starter role when the regular season rolls around, tossing three shutout innings before creating his own trouble in the fourth. The righthander, who pitched three scoreless innings on March 6 at Miami, ended up allowing two runs and two hits while walking three and striking out three over 3 1/3 innings.

"He's really understanding how to use his stuff," Farrell said. "He's using the sinker more, evident by the number of groundballs today. He's got a trememndous package of pitches. I think his last two outings have been extremely positive for him, particularly throwing two-seamers to allow him to get some outs early, getting into the flow of the game. That's taken place the last two outings."

Webster, who had seven starts in the majors last season, going 1-2 with an 8.60 ERA, has used this spring to refine his technique, garnering help from Jon Lester and John Lackey at the request of pitching coach Juan Nieves. The major point of emphasis has been to stay "north to south" from the start of the motion to the point of delivery.

For the first three innings Tuesday, the lanky 6-foot-2 righty effectively did so, surrendering just a single in the first and one in the second while striking out three and forcing four ground outs, including one double play.

The trouble came in the fourth when Webster clearly looked gassed. After getting Nick Markakis to fly out to right, Webster walked Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and Hardy on 14 total pitches.

Farrell saved the 24-year-old from any further damage by calling on Wilson, who let in two runs by walking Wieters and tossing a wild pitch during Delmon Young's at-bat.

"I was drifting forward and wasn't staying back and getting a good angle toward the plate," said Webster, who tossed 57 pitches, 32 for strikes. "I definitely learned something from it. The fatigue got to me, but I need to learn from it and keep staying back. It's a matter of getting my timing, pulling it down instead of stepping to the side, instead of at the last minute not pulling off, losing it."

Dot, dot, dots: Corey Brown, who was signed as a minor league free agent from the Washington Nationals during the offseason, went 0-for-3 to drop his spring average to .400. ... Despite leaving four on base, Lavarnway's 1-for-4 performance has him batting .316 for the spring.

Technically, Salty spared from joining Buckner

October, 27, 2013
ST. LOUIS -- Here's one of the more amazing aspects to what surely ranks as one of the weirdest finishes to a game in World Series history: Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not charged with an error on his wild throw to third that triggered the chain of events that culminated with third baseman Will Middlebrooks being charged with obstruction, allowing the winning run to score.

Under ordinary circumstances -- if Cardinals base-runner Allen Craig had not tripped over Middlebrooks after he got up following his slide into third base and attempted to head home -- Saltalamacchia probably would have been charged with a throwing error, as Craig would in all likelihood have beaten the throw to the plate.

And the last Series game to end on an error? That would be the ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson that went through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner on Oct. 25, 1986, almost 27 years to the day of Saltalamacchia's misplay.

Middlebrooks, however, by virtue of the obstruction, was charged with an error, though it's not likely to be remembered that way.

Wacha, Middlebrooks Texas HS rivals

October, 22, 2013
BOSTON -- Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks will be the first one to tell you that he’s not one to lay down a bunt.

In 660 major league plate appearances, the 25-year-old has laid down one sacrifice bunt, a grounder to the pitcher that resulted in moving the game-winning run to third against the Minnesota Twins in the 10th inning of a May 17 game this year.

However, with the World Series about to begin Wednesday night, there’s a more controversial bunt being discussed at Fenway Park, one that took place years ago in the city of Texarkana, Texas.

Or did it take place?

“I don’t remember bunting. He might just be messing with you guys,” Middlebrooks said.

The he in this scenario is St. Louis Cardinals Game 2 starter Michael Wacha, NLCS MVP and, perhaps more importantly, high school rival of fellow Texan Will Middlebrooks.

“I think he tried bunting off me,” Wacha said of Middlebrooks. “I don’t know why ... probably because he knew he couldn’t get a hit off me.”

Of the three high school located on the Texas side of Texarkana, Middlebrooks attended Liberty-Eylau High School and was two grades above the 22-year-old Wacha, who attended Pleasant Grove High School (the third school, Texas High, was attended by New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, also 25). Both were baseball standouts, Middlebrooks as a shortstop and Wacha as a pitcher.

“I knew he was good,” Middlebrooks said of Wacha. “He has always been a good pitcher, he was always the guy who utilized all three pitches. It seemed like he never threw balls in the middle of the plate.”

“He was always the best player out there, an unbelievable player,” Wacha said of Middlebrooks. “He was one of those guys everyone really looked up to.”

Now, the two are once again facing off against each other in the World Series, bringing a buzz to the Texas city with a population of around 37,000.

“They’re pretty happy that at least a ring will be coming back there,” Wacha said.

Whether Middlebrooks or Wacha will be the one to bring the ring back will be decided shortly as the winner of the World Series will be decided in the coming days. For now though, the debate in Boston rages over whether or not Middlebrooks did indeed lay a bunt down against Wacha while the two played together growing up.

“I really don’t remember that but I’ll ask him [Tuesday night],” Middlebrooks said. “I don’t know if it’s because I couldn’t hit him. I’m not ever going to say that.”

Would you start Bogaerts tonight?

October, 17, 2013

If you were John Farrell, who would be on your lineup card for Game 5?


Discuss (Total votes: 2,988)

Jim Leyland’s lineup shuffle worked for the Tigers in Game 4. The Red Sox are considering a shuffling of their own for tonight’s Game 5 to jumpstart a stagnant offense.

With third baseman Will Middlebrooks (1 for 10 in this series) and shortstop Stephen Drew (1 for 13) slumping badly in the ALCS, rookie Xander Bogaerts could draw a start tonight. Middlebrooks seems like the most likely candidate to take a seat, considering Stephen Drew is a left-handed hitter facing a right-handed starter in Anibal Sanchez.

"I haven't made a decision about tomorrow," manager John Farrell said Wednesday night. "But given the way the left side of the infield ... we're struggling a little bit to get production out of that side. So it's something that's being considered, for sure."

What would you do if you were Farrell? Vote in the accompanying poll.

Farrell could start Ross, Gomes...Bogaerts?

October, 11, 2013
BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell dropped a couple of hints Thursday about possible lineup changes, while making it clear that Detroit's all-righty rotation will not preclude starts for catcher David Ross and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

He did not say as much, but Farrell suggested that Xander Bogaerts could get a start at third base. Farrell was asked about who will be starting at third in Games 1 and 2.

"It will be Middlebrooks [Saturday]," Farrell said. "And then based on some matchups, we've got some things we're looking at in a couple of different spots."

In Sunday's Game 2, the Sox will be facing Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer, who went seven innings and allowed two runs in each of his two starts against the Sox this season. Middlebrooks is 1-for-6 with 4 strikeouts in a small sample size. Middlebrooks had 3 hits and 3 walks in the ALDS, posting a .375 on-base percentage, and Farrell said he still prefers Middlebrooks' defense at third to that of Bogaerts, who has had very limited exposure at the position.

Bogaerts, who turned 21 on Oct. 1 and joins Ken Brett and Babe Ruth as the only players 21 and under to have appeared in a postseason game for the Sox, drew two walks and scored twice in Game 4 of the ALDS, including the tying run and insurance run in Boston's 3-1 win.

Farrell said "there's a place" for Ross in the lineup. "I see it on paper in a couple of situations," he said.

He may have hinted at one of those situations when he noted how good Game 1 starter Jon Lester was against the Tigers on Sept. 3 in Fenway Park, in which he outdueled Scherzer, 2-1. Ross was behind the plate for that game, in which Lester did not walk a batter and struck out nine.

"[Lester] and David Ross hooked up and executed a game plan that was successful," Farrell said, "It was powerful. That was one game inside the second half that as we viewed Jon's season, it really became clear throughout the second half, not just that one game, that he would lead us through the month of October."

Could Ross be behind the plate for Game 1? Farrell said he had not yet talked to his catchers, but that "we'll look to mix and match."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled, singled and walked in Game 1, driving in three runs while catching Lester, who allowed two earned runs on three hits in 7 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out seven. Ross caught Lackey in Game 2, with Saltalamacchia catching both games in St. Petersburg, where he was 1-for-7 with 5 strikeouts at the plate, but made a sensational play on Matt Joyce's fouled bunt in Game 3, racing back to the screen to make the catch.

Farrell also said he envisioned roles for Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp.

"The strength of this team has been the depth of its roster," he said. "There are going to be some matchups that we think are more favorable in one case or another. And we've had the utmost -- we've had complete confidence in every guy in our uniform. And they're going to be involved."