Notes: Lefties Hill and Miller pitch for a 'pen spot

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Notes: Lefties Hill and Miller pitch for a 'pen spot

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. Left-handers Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, vying for a bullpen spot, both had throwing sessions Wednesday. Hill is trying to perfect his new sidearm delivery. Miller is trying to fulfill the promise that made him the first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers in 2006.

Hes bought in to the new delivery, manager Terry Francona said of Hill. He bought in last year in September, he had various angles. Just through conversations I think, as a staff, we felt like thats probably what we liked. But if a guy doesn't feel comfortable, it's certainly not going to work. He actually brought it to our attention that sidearm is his comfort zone. When he's out there playing long-toss on flat ground, that's the angle he usually throws from. It seems like if that that's where he's comfortable, it would be a lot easier. The hard thing to do is when you go out there and give up some runs and staying with it. But its something that I think has a chance to make him be a part of a major-league bullpen."

In Millers career, several pitching coaches have tinkered with his delivery, which is not what Francona is looking for from the lefty in his first season with the Sox.

"We actually don't want it to be an adjustment," Francona said. "I know he's been through a lot. He has the high leg kick. He got to the big leagues early, and because of the way he threw, understandably, teams tried to change him a little bit. I think what were going to try do is really simplify it and let that athleticism show and let that natural ability show. Just try to get him to simplify and have some fun and let that ability take over. Theres some pretty special stuff coming out of that arm. Rather than have 30-pitch side days to find the results, we want him to enjoy the journey. That's kind of what we've been telling him."

With Millers size 6-feet-7 his mechanics can become intricate, a slight change causing undesirable results.

"That's always going to be the case, Francona said. Guys like 6-feet-10 flamethrower Randy Johnson, you see some of the taller guys, it takes a while because the the most important thing is to repeat your delivery. When youve got that much body, it's hard to repeat. But, man, when he gets it right, it's awful pretty."

Adrian Gonzalez did not take batting practice on Wednesday, after increasing to 30 swings on Tuesday. It was not cause for alarm, as Francona had said previously Gonzalez had the option of taking a down day on Wednesday. He'll come back Thursday and start over again, Francona said. He's been feeling good, but that's what we wanted him to do."

Gonzalez, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder, took part in infield practice.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon was back after suffering with flu-like symptoms for several days.

Unlike some managers who have already named Opening Day starters, Francona has never made that decision this early in spring training.

It just doesnt make a lot of sense, he said. Somebodys going to have to answer a lot of questions, when wed rather get through the bulk of the spring and know for a fact that thats the way its going to happen.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.