First Pitch: Friday, September 16


First Pitch: Friday, September 16

By ArtMartone

Welcome to First Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox. For a complete wrapupof Thursday's action, check out Craig Calcaterra's AndThatHappened(

NO MORA! All of a sudden, Terry Francona's little joke ( doesn't seem so funny anymore, does it?

The Red Sox' lead in the wild-card race is down to three games after last night's 9-2 pounding at the hands of the Rays. ( Ken Rosenthal of still believes in the Sox -- mostly -- but the situation is dire enough that the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley is making Kyle Weiland-to-Bobby Sprowl comparisons. (And if you're not old enough to remember Bobby Sprowl, trust me, it ain't good.)

The good news is, Josh Beckett is no Kyle Weiland and he takes the mound for the Sox tonight. ( But Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says these Rays aren't going away and this race will probably go right down to the wire.

If that's the case, no more Jim Mora impersonations, okay Tito? Cuts a little close to home.

OH, THE PAIN: Whenever I look at Kevin Youkilis these days, I see Mike Lowell. (

SPEAKING OF PAIN . . . Old friend Chad Finn makes the case that Carl Crawford has been "one of the least valuable everyday players in baseball this season". (

SILVER LINING: Maybe it was a bad night for the Red Sox, but it was a "perfect night" for the Massive Tie Scenario. (

SOMETHING'S IN THE AIR: A few days after Ozzie Guillen accused his White Sox of quitting, Terry Collins said the same thing about his Mets. (

WHEN YOU'RE RIGHT, YOU'RE RIGHT: Francisco Rodriguez is raining on what should be a joyful parade in Milwaukee . . . but Rob Neyer thinks he might have a point. (

R.I.P.: Terry Belle, the twin brother of Albert and his frequent defender during Belle's stormy major-league career, was killed in a car crash in Arizona. (

OLD FRIENDS: Nice comeback for Coco Crisp ( . . . The Marlins expect Hanley Ramirez to be ready for Opening Day 2011, even though the shoulder surgery he underwent Thursday has a recovery period of 4-8 months. (Miami Herald)

AND FINALLY . . . Thank God the Tigers' winning streak ended last night. (

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 likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

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.