Farrell kicks off first full-squad workout

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Farrell kicks off first full-squad workout

FORT MYERS, Fla -- John Farrell, who labeled managing the Red Sox his "dream job'' last fall, took a big first step in that role Friday, addressing all 59 players in camp, shortly before the start of the Red Sox' first full-squad workout.

The meeting, which lasted about 50 minutes, is an annual rite of spring. But for Farrell, it was also a new start as he returns to manage the team he served as pitching coach from 2007 through 2010.

"There was a lot to mention,'' said Farrell. "More than anything, a lot of it was introductory for a number of new players, new people they're coming in contact with. They were able to hear from ownership, from Ben, from myself. It was pretty typical, I would think, for an opening of spring training.

"There's a good number of players there's no history with. I think more than anything, that first conversation, first talk, is a way to set the tone, which I think was clear. But the thing we wanted to emphasize is that it's a matter of what we do on the field and not what we're talking about.

"We're hopeful and with every intent that our actions speak certainly more volume than our words. To a man in that room, everyone associates the name Red Sox with winning. And that came out in conversation throughout the off-season. There's been an eagerness to get back down here and get started and re-write that script.

Following the meeting, the Sox then went through their paces on their first full-squad workout.

"It was good,'' reported Farrell. "I thought things flowed well, based on what we set out to accomplish. Understanding that baserunning is an emphasis, we were able to get into that right away. Fortunately, the weather held off and it was a good work day.''

The Sox are waiting on a recent MRI of Mike Napoli before clearing Napoli to begin some work at his new first base.

"We're hopeful we get the results or read of that later today. No update as of yet.''

Meanwhile, David Ortiz met with Dr. George Theodore to check on his strained right Achilles. He later ran around some cones and took part in some sprints.

"It's part of his current rehab,'' said Farrell. "He's not (yet) in the baserunning or conditioning drills that we do or are doing. They're specific to his protocol, so he feels not only getting stronger, but with each passing day, there's less hesitancy to be a little more agile, a little bit more explosive. ''

Felix Doubront, who was found to have some weakness in his left shoulder earlier in the week, is on schedule to throw off a mound next Wednesday. First, he'll throw long toss at a distance of about 135 feet Saturday.

Lefty reliever Craig Breslow played long toss from 75 feet Friday and according to Farrell, has made "steady progres.''

Finally, there's Clay Buchholz (hamstring), who played long toss at 120 feet. He needs to pass what Farrell termed "functional running tests'' before the Sox allow him to fully participate in his normal spring activity.

"It's likely he'll get back on the mound -- he has no ill effects throwing -- to keep his arm strength going, probably prior to keeping loose with all the agility, PFP training.''

Will Middlebrooks blossomed last year before being struck on the hand with a pitch in the first week of August, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.

Farrell is still in the process of getting to know him, but likes what he sees.

"We know that there is still room to improve defensively,'' said Farrell, "with consistency in his footwork and range to his glove side. As the book gets out on him around the league, theres going to be, Im sure that adjustment, counter-adjustment as the league reacts to him. Hes set himself up at least in the first two-thirds of a season, hes started his career on the right foot.''

Middlebrooks is fully healed from the broken hand which he suffered in Cleveland last August.

"Theres no limitations at all,'' said Farrell. "When you see him take BP, the sound off his bat is different than most guys, even in this camp. Hes fully healed from the fracture.''

A number of players in the clubhouse -- including Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury -- know Farrell from his previous stint here. Still others, however, are just getting to know him.

"With many of the new players or guys I have no history with,'' said Farrell, "I have to earn my trust with them, earn my credibility. By virtue of the position, its not carte-blanche. Theres got to be trust established. Thats part of spring training. Thats one of the things from my end, in building a relationship with new players, well need every bit of these seven weeks.''

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.