Sox undecided on Lackey pitching for Sox in September

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Sox undecided on Lackey pitching for Sox in September

NEW YORK -- John Lackey is making progress coming back from Tommy John surgery, but the Red Sox are undecided whether he'll pitch for them before the season is complete.

Lackey threw a 45-pitch side session as Bobby Valentine watched. The manager liked what he saw.

"I would say that I'll bet you there were 35 to 37 of those pitches were excellent," said Valentine. "They were thrown with an ease of motion and had perfect location, movement. I was very impressed with what I saw. And, after talking to him after with what I saw, he's feeling really good about his progress."

Lackey will try to throw more breaking balls on flat ground as part of his next step, then return to a session where he replicates a game situation by pitching "innings."

As to whether Lackey might pitch in September, the Sox haven't made a determination. He underwent surgery last October, which would have him at the 11-month recovery stage next month.

"We haven't gotten quite that far in the schedule," said GM Ben Cherington. "He's come along really well. I fully expect him to pitch in some sort of competitive environment this year so that he can go into the off-season and feel like it's a normal off-season. But I don't know when that game is or what that game is."

There's only about two weeks left in most minor league seasons making it, according to Cherington, "unlikely he'll pitch in a regular-season minor league game."

Lackey could conceivably pitch in an Instructional League game or a simulated game at the team's minor league complex in Fort Myers.

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.