First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

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First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox.

ONE THING AT A TIME: Noticed that rumors about a replacement for Terry Francona have dried up in the last few days? That may be because, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Red Sox have decided not to interview any candidates until Theo Epstein's status is resolved.

News on that front is non-existent, though analysis and opinion abound. Gerry Callahan's opinion? Epstein is gone. (Boston Herald) This man's opinion? Chicago had best be a destination and not an escape for Theo (csnne.com), since the pressure to turn the Cubs into a winner will be even higher than the pressure he felt here (if that's possible). Speier's analysis? That the Sox can draw on some of the lessons from their unsuccessful pursuit of Billy Beane in 2002 to guide them now.

When all that's done, then we can turn to the manager's chair. And John Smoltz says it won't be easy to fill it with someone as good as Tito. (csnne.com)

AND AFTER THAT . . . There are player issues to resolve, such as what to do with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. (Boston Globe) Bill Chuck of Nation STATion knows what he'd do. (csnne.com) Hint: Think gold watches and retirement parties.

AND AFTER THAT . . . Focus will turn to improving the team on the field. And more and more, it's look like there'll be a left-handed ace -- CC Sabathia -- available on the free-agent market. (New York Post) But unlike 2007, when they were faced with a similar situation with Alex Rodriguez and said they were ready to let A-Rod walk, the Yankees aren't setting any artificial deadlines with Sabathia. (New York Daily News)

THEY'LL NEED IT: The free-agenttrade market may be the only place the Red Sox will find help this offseason, because it was a barren year down on the farms. (Providence Journal)

WE'LL BE WAITING: When asked if 2012 will be his last season, Mariano Rivera told the New York Post: "I will let you know".

NOW I CAN SLEEP AGAIN: Looks like Derek Jeter's romance with Minka Kelly is back on. (msn.foxsports.com)

IT'S COMING: Bud Selig isn't sure the baseball postseason will expand to 10 teams in 2012, but he sure sounds like it will eventually. (cbssports.com)

WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS . . . Stuart Sternberg does a little fence-mending (St. Petersburg Times) with the Rays' fans . . . all 35 of them. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

AND FINALLY . . . Surprised at the Sox' sudden September implosion? So was Jonathan Papelbon. (weei.com)

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.