BOSTON -- Aaron Cook, whose status with the Red Sox has been the subject of much debate over the past few days, is being called up and will pitch in place of Josh Beckett on Saturday. General manager Ben Cherington discussed Cook's status as part of a wide-ranging talk on Wednesday:
"No definitive plans for him beyond Saturday. Pitching coach Bob McClure and I have talked about that. We're looking at that 20-day stretch of games and mapping that out. Certainly we expect him to be a part of the pitching staff. We've just got to map out exactly where they all line up."
"He's willing to do anything. He has been a starter and that's the role he's coming up to play. We'll map out the rotation." When asked if that meant the Sox would shift to a six-man rotation -- which may help Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront, both of whom are new to starting -- Cherington replied: ""That came up. So far this year, basically everybody has been on a six-day schedule essentially because of the off days. Most guys have had the extra day. And so if we did that, it would be consistent with the schedule the guys have been on so far. We haven't made a decision but that's been discussed and it's a possibility."
"He's obviously been a good starter in the big leagues for a long time and we need to keep as much starting depth as we can. So there's different options that we're looking at. But our plan is to have him start Saturday and if that goes well, keep going."
"We just felt it was important at this point of the year to keep as much pitching depth as we could."
"I think the big thing with Aaron is just coming off the year that he had last year, it was building arm strength and building his pitch count and maintaining stuff deeper into a pitch count. We saw earlier in the spring where his first outings where his pitch count was lower, his sinker was really working earlier in the pitch count. Then, it got flattened out a little bit as games went on. Toward the end of spring, and while he has been in Pawtucket, he's been able to hold that sinker deeper into the pitch count. And that's the key for him obviously is to just let that sinker play and getting ground balls. And he's been able to do that in 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.
Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join 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.
Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.” But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.
Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.
Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.
"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”
Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.
Thornburg 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.
Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.