One of the takeaways of Hanley Ramirez’ gathering with the press Thursday was just how affable the veteran slugger was.
As John Zannis put it, Ramirez seemed to take on the old Big Papi persona that’s been missing since David Ortiz called it a career at the end of the 2016 season. Entering his third season back in Boston, Ramirez seemingly sees an opportunity to become a leader.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was asked about Ramirez emerging as a leader in a 1-on-1 conversation with Trenni Kusnierek afterwards.
“I think so,” Dombrowski replied, “and for people that didn’t know Hanley, say in the past, they would look at him and they would say, ‘Well, look, there’s one of the leaders of the Red Sox organization.’
“And there’s been a transformation from him over the last couple of years. I can’t really speak why because, again, having been around him just a limited time period, but this past year, in 2016, he was outstanding with his work ethic, with his abilities, with his attitude day-in and day-out and he steps up here now as one of our leaders.
“And he’s earned that not only ability-wise, but being in a position the way he’s handled himself, the way he’s worked hard and the way that he’’s worked hard over the wintertime. He is one of the leaders of our ball club and a very instrumental part of our club.”
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.