Battle for final roster spot continues for Red Sox


Battle for final roster spot continues for Red Sox

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Three Red Sox role players are vying for the final roster spot on the 25-man roster, and Saturday, Bobby Valentine did everything he could to see each of the players at as many positions as possible.

Pedro Ciriaco moved from short to second to third, back to short, back to second, back to third and, finally, back to short again.

Nate Spears began the game at second, went to third, moved to short, back to second, back to third, at short once more and finished at first base.

Outfielder Jason Repko, meanwhile, got four at-bats while playing center field for most of the game.

"Actually, Jerry (Royster, third base coach) did the whole thing,'' said Valentine of the near-constant shifting. "We wanted to make it seem like they were going in for defense at a different position -- all that simulated stuff.

"They moved around nicely. Nate played good defense, Ciriaco, too, at some different places.''

The Sox may wait another day or more before making the final decision on the 25-man roster.

"Ben (Cherington's) going to get reports and ask around,'' said Valentine. "Ultimately, the roster will be collaborative. But it's Ben's decision. It's a good one his first spring, a tough one. It's not made for him -- or us, for that

Ciriaco was 1-for-3 with two runs scored and a sacrifice. Spears was 0-for-4 with a walk and an RBI while Repko was 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Ciriaco is hitting an even .400 for the spring while Spears is at .295 with Repko at .262.

Valentine said the Red Sox will bring all three -- plus most of the players who got into Saturday's game -- to Washington for Tuesday's exhibition game with the Nationals.

The Sox must submit their 25-man Opening Day roster by 5 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

Another burner for Brady: Kraft compares Cooks to Moss


Another burner for Brady: Kraft compares Cooks to Moss

PHOENIX -- For an indication of just how high the expectations sit for newly-acquired Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks, have a look at what team owner Robert Kraft said during the annual league meetings at the Biltmore on Monday. 

Asked about all the moves Bill Belichick and his front office have made this offseason, Kraft started with the former Saints big-play threat.

"I think what they've done is excellent this year," Kraft said. "And I know bringing this young man from New Orleans, I don't know, except since I've owned the team the only player who could make an impact like that at wide receiver is Randy Moss. He doesn't have his height, but he's got his speed. I think that's complementary to what we have on the team. I'm excited about him joining us."

Cooks gives the Patriots one of the most dynamic pass-catching threats in the NFL and should provide an additional boost to an offense that ranked third in the league in points scored (27.6) in 2016. He is one of three players to record 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. The other two? Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.

Those are some big names, but Moss may be the biggest ever associated with Cooks. What Moss did when he arrived to New England in a trade with the Raiders in 2007 was historic, catching 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns. 

As excited as Kraft is for Cooks' arrival, not even he will project a similarly gaudy statistical year. But he's clearly thrilled that Tom Brady will have yet another explosive receiving threat to pair with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and an impressive stable of pass-catching backs.

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.