Rays creep up in rearview mirror, 7-2

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Rays creep up in rearview mirror, 7-2

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are still entertaining hope, however slight, that they can make a run at the wild card spot in the American League. In the opener of a three-game weekend series, the Red Sox did nothing to disabuse them of that notion.

The Rays exploded for five runs in the first three innings against Red Sox starter John Lackey and posted an easy 7-2 victory to move them to within five games in the loss column of the Sox.

The two teams meet six more times this season.

Lackey retired the Rays in order in the first, but was tagged for a three-run homer by catcher John Jaso in the second.

After getting two quick outs in the third, Lackey allowed the next five hitters to reach, with two scoring.

Lackey didn't return, having been struck in the left calf on a comebacker by Jaso in the third. Then again, he was already closing in on 70 pitches after three innings and had spotted the Rays a 5-0 lead. The loss dropped Lackey to 12-12 and raised his ERA to 6.30.

The Sox broke through for two runs in the top of the sixth on a run-scoring infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury (14-game hitting streak) and a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro (13 RBI in last nine games).

But Tampa Bay responded with three doubles in the bottom of the inning off reliever Scott Atchison to re-claim a five-run lead.

STAR OF THE GAME: Wade Davis
While John Lackey was imploding early on, Davis was cruising against the Red Sox lineup, allowing just two hits over the first five innings while facing one over the minimum in that span.

Davis was nicked for two runs in tthe sixth, but hung on to go the distance, allowing just six hits -- two of them in the infield.

HONORABLE MENTION: John Jaso
Jaso launched a three-run homer in the second inning to begin the assult on John Lackey, providing the only runs that Davis would need. He later would add a leadoff double and a run scored in the sixth off Scott Atchison.

Adding injury to insult, Jaso hit a sharp comebacker off Lackey's left calf in the third inning, bringing an end to Lackey's night one way or another.

GOAT OF THE GAME: John Lackey
Lackey needed to get the Sox a win in the series opener, or, at the very least, take them deep into the game. He did neither, allowing five runs in the first three innings as his ERA went up to a league-worst 6.30 ERA. The game marked the ninth time in 25 outings that Lackey had given up five or more runs.

TURNING POINT: The Sox hinted at a comeback in the top of the sixth when they finally broke through against Davis, scoring twice and cutting the deficit from five runs to three.

But just as quickly, the Rays countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning and the five-run lead was re-established.

BY THE NUMBERS: Marco Scutaro, who knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly, now has 14 RBI in his last nine games.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "We've got to win games. We're trying our hardest, but we didn't play very well tonight.'' Dustin Pedroia.

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.