A full day's work for Aviles

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A full day's work for Aviles

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It's rare when veteran players make 2 12 hour bus trips in spring training. It's rarer still when they're asked to play the entire nine innings, especially in the first week of Grapefruit League play.

But there was a method to Bobby Valentine's madness when he had Mike Aviles play from start to finish in the Red Sox' 3-3 tie with the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I like to keep watching (Aviles at short),'' said Valentine. "I don't really like to get short glimpses of him right now. I got to see him turn a double play and he was under control.''

He also lauded him for his role in a relay play in the seventh when the Sox cut down Toronto shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria attempting to stretch a double into a triple on a ball hit to right. Valentine said Aviles was in "perfect position" for the relay, then made "a perfect throw" to third baseman Ryan Dent to catch the baserunner.

Aviles said the last time he played all nine innings in a spring game was in 2009, when he was playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

With Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro dealt in the offseason and Jose Iglesias likely needing more seasoning at Triple A, Aviles is the clear favorite to become the everyday shortstop at the beginning of the year.

Aviles hasn't played shortstop with any regularity since 2008, when he played 91 games there for the Kansas City Royals. Since then, he's moved around the infield as more of a utility player.

"Out of all the positions,'' said Aviles, "the one that feels the easiest for things to come back naturally has been short for me. It's the one position I feel like I can take the least amount of reps and get the most comfortable quicker.

"With third, second or even the outfield, I feel like I have to take more reps to feel comfortable, whereas at short, I can take a couple days of groundballs and feel right at home. I'm starting to feel more comfortable playing the game, pretty much.''

Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll

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Saturday's Red Sox-Rangers lineups: Wright tries to stay on roll

Knuckleballer Steven Wright will try to stay on a roll, as will the Red Sox, as they continue their three-game series tonight (9:20) against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

Wright (8-4, American League-leading 2.01 ERA) faces Rangers right-hander A.J. Griffin (3-0, 2.94), in his first start since coming off the 15-day disabled list.

The Red Sox rallied to win the series opener 8-7 with a four-run ninth inning.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 3B
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Steven Wright RHP

RANGERS
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Ian Desmond CF
Nomar Mazara LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Prince Fielder DH
Roughned Odor 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Mitch Moreland 1B
Robinson Chirinos C
---
A.J. Griffin RHP
 

Sweeney on chasing Stamkos, Lucic: 'We will make all the calls'

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Sweeney on chasing Stamkos, Lucic: 'We will make all the calls'

BUFFALO – While it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s any chance of it realistically happening, the Bruins plan to reach out to some of the bigger fish on the free agent market with roughly $21 million in cap space to work with.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney lost out on a defenseman trade target in Dmitry Kulikov on Saturday when he was dealt by the Panthers to the Buffalo Sabres and appears far away from acquiring top D-man target Kevin Shattenkirk.

So, the Bruins will turn their attention to the free agent market opening on July 1, and with that in mind Sweeney didn’t rule out the Bruins making a run at Stephen Stamkos, or potentially welcoming back power forward Milan Lucic.

“The interview period has already begun, and we were on the phone today with players that we had targeted. It was our first opportunity to speak with them, and see if things line up. It will play out over the next few days and we will be aggressive about it because we want to improve,” said Sweeney, who was adamant that the Bruins would make all the necessary exploratory phone calls when specifically asked about both Stamkos and Lucic. “We will take the temperature of whoever will help our hockey club, and it if lines up then that’s what we’d like to do.

“There are a lot of coveted ones on the market, and we will make all of the calls. It’s everybody. The city would embrace it, and the organization has great respect for [Lucic]. So there’s no question that we would explore all players.”

There may be some sentimental interest from Lucic's camp in returning to Boston, but there's also a sense the left wing has become comfortable back on his native West Coast. The Canucks in his home city of Vancouver and the Edmonton Oilers are expected to push hard for his punishing, board-rattling services. Wooing Stamkos would be particularly difficult given that the Bruins seem years away from truly competing for a Stanley Cup and have two frontline centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

While either one would certainly help a Black and Gold team likely to be losing Loui Eriksson in free agency, much of their existing cap space is going to be eaten up by a contract extension for RFA Torey Krug, a deal for whatever replacement they have in mind for Eriksson should he sign with a different team and the top-four defenseman that Boston has needed since trading Dougie Hamilton at last June’s draft weekend in Florida. 

Bruins wrap up draft by picking Koppanen, Clarke, Steen

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Bruins wrap up draft by picking Koppanen, Clarke, Steen

BUFFALO – The Bruins continued their drafting of big centers, defenseman and potential bottom-six forwards on Day 2 of the NHL draft with their final three selections,  including a pair of European prospects.

With back-to-back picks in the fifth round, the Bruins took 6-foot-5 Finnish center Joona Koppanen with the 135th pick, then tapped 20-year-old late-blooming defenseman Cameron Clarke with the next pick. The big-bodied, defense-minded Koppanen sounded quite a bit like fellow countrymen and ex-Bruin Joonas Kemppainen as an overall player, but clearly the Bruins are hoping he can develop more of his offensive game over the next few years.

A 5-foot-9, 187-pound Swedish forward Oskar Steen was the pick in the sixth round. The Bruins then traded their 2016 seventh-round pick to the Florida Panthers for a seventh-round pick in 2017.

Add those three players to the first three players selected in the first two rounds (Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic and Ryan Lindgren), and the Bruins clearly pursued big, bottom-six centers and defensemen as their main target areas.

“I think we addressed the defensive part of our game, and we addressed our centermen. We got some speed and some compete, and those are things [we liked] from all of us,” said Bruins head of scouting Keith Gretzky. “Charlie likes to get up and give the big hits, and makes big plays with the puck. He was a young kid that played in an older league, and you’ve got to have the ability to do that. His game just got better as the year went along.

“With [Frederic] we wanted a center with some size and heaviness, and we really believe he’s going to a good program. His teammates all talked highly of him, and character is a very big thing. You want guys that will pay the price, and when you look at him and Lindgren [those are the type of guys]. Lindgren isn’t the most skilled guy like McAvoy, but he brought an element that we really liked as an organization. We believe he’s a leader, and you win with those guys.”

All six of the players will be in Boston for development camp a couple of weeks from now, along with the rest of the Black and Gold prospect group.