Francona: Red Sox facing 'tough' decisions

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Francona: Red Sox facing 'tough' decisions

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. With just two weeks to go before Opening Day, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said his team will spend the remaining time in Fort Myers working on fundamentals, something his team has been able to focus on only sporadically recently because of scheduling.

Well, we still have some fundamentals that we need to cover, Francona said. We got to get through the next three or four days. We got three games in the next 24 hours. So, our travel schedule here is not real conducive to sometimes getting our work done. Its not a complaint. Its just stating the facts. We spend a lot of time on buses because of where were located. So we try to do our fundamentals periodically. When we have a couple home games well spend a little extra time doing stuff like that . . . Once we get through with this stretch, well probably pare the number in camp down a little bit more and well get in the last of our fundamentals.

After this stretch a split-squad, day-night, home-away doubleheader on Friday, and a game in Bradenton Saturday against the Pirates the Red Sox will make additional roster moves, paring the number from the current 43.

But, with every position on the roster just about set, there remain very few spots open one or possibly two spots in the bullpen. Who will fill those spots are the real decisions. Those in the mix include left-handers Andrew Miller, Randy Williams, Dennys Reyes, Hideki Okajima, and Rich Hill, and righties Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Brandon Duckworth, Michael Bowden, Matt Fox, Alfredo Aceves, and Tim Wakefield.

Franconas decisions this spring are a little different than in past springs.

Just as difficult, but for different reasons.

In the past, I think weve had real tough decisions, he said. This year its a little different because I think we feel like we have good depth. Sometimes youre making a decision out of like, Uh-oh, somebodys got to emerge here where youre kind of scrambling. Last year we brought lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis in late. This year we feel like weve got a lot of good decisions to make. Its going to be tough on some guys because they probably feel like they deserve to make the team.

Nobodys really separated themselves in a bad way. Everybodys kind of done what we hoped theyd do, were going to have some decisions to make. Its tough for guys, but its a good way to set up your team."

Dont expect any hints from Francona on who his picks will be.

I would never sit here and talk about somebody being on the team, he said. I cant do that. Thats so disrespectful to the players. I would never do that. Thatd be awful.

He did acknowledge, though, that Wakefield and Aceves, for example, could fill similar roles long relief, spot starts but with very different styles.

Reyes, who got to camp late from Mexico because of visa issues, has pitched five innings over five games, giving up one earned run. He is scheduled to pitch in Friday afternoons game against the Tigers.

I think hes a little bit behind, Francona said. We certainly have to make a decision with him. But hes got that two-seam, when the balls down and hes got the late-breaking slider. Just want to see how consistent he is.

Were going to have some interesting decisions to make here, Francona said.

Fortunately, guys have really shown well. Im sure pitching coach Curt Young and I and general manager Theo Epstein and assistant GM Ben Cherington will sit down, as we have been, and try to make the best decisions, not only for Opening Day but for the organization. Its going to be tough.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

Napoli: Red Sox and his agent only had 'small talk' about reunion

BOSTON -- Of course, the Rangers' Mike Napoli didn't mind the idea of replacing David Ortiz. He loved playing in Boston.

There just was never much chatter that way last offseason, when Napoli was a free agent after his Indians took the Cubs to seven games in the World Series.

"I think my agent had maybe a small talk or something [with the Red Sox], but I don't think it ever would have happened," Napoli said Tuesday afternoon as he returned to Fenway Park with Texas. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have loved to come back. But, I mean, it all worked out. I'm glad to be where I'm at now. Because I knew everybody here [with the Rangers]. I didn't have to start over again."

Napoli played with the Rangers in 2011 and '12, and was traded by the Sox to Texas for the last few months of the 2015 season.

He was hopeful the Sox -- his team from 2013 to midseason 2015 -- would be among the clubs to come calling last winter.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

But he wasn't optimistic it was going to happen. And it didn't.

"To be honest with you . . . Cleveland was my first priority," he said. "I just had a World Series run [with the Indians] and we didn't win it. And then Texas was there [in the bidding, along with] Minnesota."

The Rangers wound up giving Napoli, 35, a one-year deal for 8.5 million with an $11 million club option for next season or a $2.5 million buyout. He's hitting just .188 entering Tuesday, a subpar figure, but has 10 home runs.

"We started off pretty slow, but winning 10 straight will help," Napoli said of the Rangers' recent tear. "[Winning] 11 of 12, we've been playing better. I think we kind of lost track of who we are. We got some guys struggling, still trying to find themselves and kind of got away from doing it together as a team, but we got back to doing that. It's been going pretty well."

Part of the World Series championship team of four years ago, Napoli loved being in Boston in 2013, and he enjoys being back now.

"What we were able to do in 2013, obviously, it's something I'l never forget and something I cherish," Napoli said. "I love coming back here to play."

When it was noted there's been so much turmoil since Napoli left -- the talk of Tuesday was manager John Farrell's job security -- he was unsurprised.

"You got to have thick skin to play here," Napoli said. "You're expected to win a championship every single year. But that's what I loved about playing here, is that people were on you. For me, I loved it. A lot of people probably couldn't do it.

"I knew it in my heart that I went out there and I played as hard as I possibly could every single time . . . I know you're not going to be perfect and live up to everyone."