Bullpen picks up where it left off

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Bullpen picks up where it left off

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine wasted no time putting his bullpen back to work Friday, the first day after the All-Star break.

With the benefit of four days' rest, the relievers were rested and ready and Valentine took full advantage as the Red Sox edged the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1.

Starter Franklin Morales blanked the Rays on just two hits through the first five innings and could have gone another inning after throwing 90 innings.

"First time back,'' explained Valentine, "I didn't really want to bring the bullpen in with men on base if he got in trouble again in the sixth.''

Arms fresh, Valentine could mix and match as he saw fit. Atchison faced four hitters, allowing a two-out double which produced an unearned run thanks to an error by Mike Aviles.

Andrew Miller allowed an infield single to pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad, the only hitter he faced, putting runners at first-and-third. But Matt Albers fanned Desmond Jennings to end the threat, then retired the side in order in the seventh, adding two more strikeouts.

"We were able to come in and pick up Frankie,'' said Albers. "Those few days off were great. I used my sinker, curve ball and slider. Obviously, it kind of depends on how the games go, but with everybody rested, a lot of guys had a chance to pitch.''

Next came the duo of Vicente Padilla (eighth) and Alfredo Aceves, who got the Rays in order for his 20th save of the season.

"It's gone really good,'' said Albers of the bullpen's performance. "We all have each others' backs out there. Roles sometimes change depending on how much guys throw, but everybody has a chance to get rest after they throw. It's been good. We have guys who can do different roles.

"(Valentine) has tried to put us in position to make us successful. Obviously, if me and Atch can face righthanded hitters, that's going to benefit us. Andrew can get anybody out, but he's even more effective against lefties. And I think (using everybody) keeps everybody's pitch counts down, as well.''

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg appears headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg appears headed to disabled list

Tyler Thornburg might be joining David Price on the disabled list to start the season.
 
Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.
 
Thornburg, acquired in the trade that sent Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers, had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.