PROVIDENCE Red Sox manager John Farrell will be hopscotching southern states this weekend, hoping to see a few of his players. On Friday, he will travel to Dallas to see John Lackey and Will Middlebrooks. On Saturday, he will go to the teams spring training complex in Fort Myers, where left-handers Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales are among the early arrivals.But it is perhaps his trip on Sunday to Mississippi, with new pitching coach Juan Nieves, that could answer many questions for the Sox.Farrell and Nieves will watch right-hander Daniel Bard throw. It will be the first time Bard will be throwing from a mound this offseason.Farrell saw from afar the effects of Bards disastrous foray into starting pitching last season. It was Bards meltdown in Toronto in June, with Farrell managing in the home teams dugout, that resulted in Bard being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, lugging a record of 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. Farrell has talked with Bard frequently this offseason and has watched video of the right-hander who had been one of baseballs top set-up men prior to 2012.Theres some changes you can identify there, Farrell said. And in talking with Daniel the most encouraging thing in a situation like this is that hes aware of the changes that have taken place. Now unwinding those changes and getting him back to the basics, and when I say basics of what hes demonstrated previously and the strengths that he has, I think most importantly hes got a clear view of where that needs to settle in from, not only from a delivery standpoint but from an aggressive simplified approach.And I think as a starter last year he tried to manipulate the ball a little bit too much, maybe be a little bit too fine in ways where he was trying to induce a ground ball a lot rather than staying with that aggressive approach that has made him successful in Boston.In their talks this offseason, Farrell has noticed a change.If I were to map it out, and actually tell him its gotten better the deeper weve gotten in the offseason, Farrell said. And I think as hes picked up a ball and gotten back into the throwing program hes felt somethings naturally come back to him, particularly his arm slot.Im not going to say time cures all. Thats not, were not just going to put his challenges aside and pretend that they didnt happen. But I think as hes gotten further away from it hes had a fresh outlook to this. The workouts hes gone through this offseason have been very consistent and strong and just the tone and confidence from which he speaks from is another step in the right direction. Thatll all be solidified as he commands a baseball in spring training and starts to get some tangible results once he steps on a mound.
BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park:
*The Red Sox got some much-needed contributions from the bottom of the order.
Aaron Hill was 0-for-20 when he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but slapped a tie-breaking single to right to put the Red Sox ahead to stay.
Batting ninth was Jackie Bradley Jr. who was 3-for-17 when he singled in the fifth, homered in the sixth and doubled home a run in the ninth, right after Hill's heroics.
The Sox have been carried offensively by the top four or five in their lineup, but that's a tough way to win.
At some point, others in the batting order have to contribute. The timing couldn't have been better than for that to start on Wednesday afternoon.
* Why was Junichi Tazawa throwing fastballs ahead 0-and-2?
Tazawa entered with the bases loaded and Logan Forsythe due. After two quick strikes, Tazawa kept throwing fastballs to Forsythe, who took the second one and lined it back up the middle for a two-run single.
Tazawa's best pitch is his split-finger, and it seemed like that would have been the more prudent choice there -- to get Forsythe to chase a pitch out of the zone.
It's doubtful that there were concerns about a split bouncing in the dirt and getting away from catcher Sandy Leon.
The Rays lost out on a run in the third inning and it changed the game.
With two outs, the Rays had Tim Beckham at second and Logan Forsythe at first when Kevin Kiermaier stroked a line drive to the gap in right-center.
Beckham jogged toward the plate, but at the same time, Kiermaier attempted to stretch a single into a double. His throw arrived in time for a tag to be placed on him as he slid into second.
Worse, from the Rays' standpoint, Beckham hadn't crossed the plate before the tag was applied at second, so what should have been an automatic run was not a run at all for Tampa Bay.
BOSTON - Without saying so directly, John Farrell broadly hinted that the Red Sox appear ready to call up Yoan Moncada as rosters expand from the current 25-man limit Thursday.
Farrell first noted that the Red Sox "need better production'' at third base, where both Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill have struggled mightily at the position.
Moncada, a natural second baseman, was shifted to third base earlier this month at Double A Portland. Moncada has a slash line of .285/.388/.547 with 11 homers and 27 RBI in 44 games.
Asked specifically about the chances of a call-up for Moncada, Farrell said: "We've talked about Yoan. And not just as a pinch-runner. It's an exciting young player, an extremely talented guy. There's all positive reviews and evaluations of him.
"When that major league experience is going to initiate, time will tell that. But in terms of playing the position of third base [in the big leagues], that conversation has been had.''
Previously, the Red Sox had resisted bringing Moncada to the big leagues, worried that he wouldn't be in the lineup often enough to continue his development. The Sox didn't want him to miss out on additional experience in the minors by playing only part-time in the majors.
But now that the minor league seasons are about to end -- Portland finishes Labor Day -- there's nothing in the minors for Moncada to miss.
"This is a different scenario than if it were July or early August,'' said Farrell. "The minor league season ends [soon], so is there benefit to him just being here? The answer to that is yes. Do you weigh playing 'X' number of games per week versus what he could be doing at Portland or Pawtucket? Well, that goes away [with the minor league regular seasons end].
"So, again, by all accounts, there's nothing but positives that could come out of experience here -- if that were to happen.''
Moncada's promotion would be similar to the one experience by Xander Bogaerts in 2013, who was brought up in the final week of August 2013 and remained with the club all the way through the end of the team's World Series run that fall, taking playing time from struggling third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
"For those who have been around this team for a number of years,'' said Farrell, "teams that have had success have always had an injection of young players late in the season that have helped carry the team through the postseason. I think Yoan would be in a similar category to when Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], when Jake [Jacoby Ellsbury] came into the picture. And Andrew (Benintendi) is already here, so I wouldn't separate [Moncada] out from that at all.
"In fact, he's a direct comparison [to those cases].’’
Farrell agreed that the arrival of a young, highly-touted player can inject some energy into a team in the throes of a pennant race.
"Absolutely, there is,'' said Farrell. "You've got a newness element. You've got, likely, above-average speed. You've got athleticism. You've got the unknown across the field on how does a given [opposing] team attack a given guy.
"In the cases we've talked about, it has been beneficial to us for the young player to come up. They find a way to contribute in a meaningful role.
Without saying that [Moncada's promotion] is a definite, there's a lot [of positives]going for it.''
Farrell also acknowledged that the Sox have already held internal discussions about how Moncada would be utilized, given that the switch-hitter has been far more productive from the left side of the plate.
"We've talked about what's strong side, how do you look to best ease him in, so to speak,'' said Farrell. "We thought that with Benintendi, how do we best ease him in. Well, he blew the doors off of that one [with his early success]. So, if it happens, and if begins here soon, you'll all be aware.''
Farrell said the reports of Moncada's transition to third base have been encouraging despite three errors in his first nine games there.
"He's shown good range, an above-average arm,'' said Farrell. "Where there will be ongoing work and continued development, just as there was at second base, is the ball hit straight at him. That's just pure technique and fundamental positioning with hands and feet.
"But as far as range to his glove side, moving to third base, that seemingly has not been that big of a challenge for him.''
The Red Sox try to end their short homestand at 3-3 and take two of three from the last-place Tampa Bay Rays in the series finale this afternoon at Fenway Park.
Steven Wright (13-6, 3.18 ERA), who allowed five first-inning runs to the Kansas Royals in his last start - his first since coming off the disabled list - is on the mound for the Red Sox. Left-hander Drew Smyly (6-11, 4.80) starts for the Rays.
The Red Sox begin a nine-game road trip to Oakland, San Diego and Toronto on Friday night.
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller DH
Nick Franklin RF
Logan Morrison 1B
Tim Beckham SS
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
Drew Smyly LHP
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Sandy Leon C
Chris Young LF
Aaron Hill 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF