Notes: Being skipped over angered Lackey

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Notes: Being skipped over angered Lackey

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's been two weeks since John Lackey's start was sacrificed after a rainout in order to get the Red Sox rotation back in order.

Apparently, however, Lackey hasn't forgotten what he interpreted as a slight.

Tuesday night in Oakland, he noted after his start that he "wasn't happy'' with being skipped.

Sunday, after his second strong outing (eight shutout innings in a 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Lackey ratcheted up his displeasure.

"I was pissed off,'' he said looking back on being skipped.

When asked if the move had served to motivate him in his last starts (14 innings pitched, one run allowed), an agitated Lackey responded: "What do you think? What's it look like?''

Terry Francona insists the Sox weren't intending to send a message to Lackey.

"We didn't skip him because he was pitching bad,'' he said. ''We skipped him so we didn't screw up the staff. And I think he was mad. I think all competitors get like that. He wanted to come out and show what kind of pitcher he is.''

If this is what it takes to get Lackey back on track, maybe the Red Sox should have tried it earlier.

On Sunday, he consistently got ahead of hitters, threw his breaking ball for strikes on the few occasions when he fell behind, and generally cruised through the Angels lineup.

From the second through the sixth, he allowed just one base hit past the infield.

"I think he's more comfortable hitting his spots,'' volunteered catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "He's not missing over the middle. He's missing more off the plate. He's got to make that first pitch count. You can't just throw it over the middle. And he didn't do that.''

Lackey is now 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts against his former team.

''I think the familiarity helps a little bit, for sure,'' said Lackey. "They know what I like to do and I guess I kind of know what they might be expecting. It's a cat-and-mouse thing that's going to be ongoing.''

Carl Crawford is hitting just .171, but over the last few games, there have been encouraging signs.

For a change, Crawford isn't looking overmatched.

"He looked in between on every single swing,'' said a scout who watched him earlier this season. "Too slow on fastballs and too quick on the breaking stuff.''

That's no longer the case. He homered -- his first as a member of the Sox -- in the sixth and added a single in the eighth. Sunday represented his second straight multihit game.

"I feel good,'' said Crawford. "I hit the ball hard. When you leave the yard, it feels good. You just want to get a big hit. I've been feeling a little better. I'm not out of the woods yet; I'm still in grind mode. But the good thing is, things are starting to feel a little bit better.''

When Francona decided to sit Jed Lowrie, the Red Sox' hottest hitter, it seemed like a curious move.

But Marco Scutaro, who played shortstop over Lowrie, made his manager look smart with a walk, two hits and two runs scored.

"It's good,'' said Scutaro of his afternoon. "I'm just battling myself right now. I keep working and try to do my job when I'm in the lineup. I've got to keep fighting, but there's a long way to go.

"It's hard enough to keep your hitting stroke going even when you play every day. When I was playing every day at the start of the season, my timing was all messed up. But I just have to keep working on my hitting and be ready for everything.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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.