Cook still battling for roster spot

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Cook still battling for roster spot

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On the same day that some of the competition got thinned out for the Red Sox' starting rotation, Aaron Cook took a big step forward for himself.

Cook pitched 3 13 scoreless innings for the Sox in a split-squad matchup in Sarasota against (more-or-less) the regular Baltimore Orioles lineup.

It was Cook's second appearance of the spring, which had been slowed some because of some shoulder weakness earlier in camp.

He allowed one hit and walk with a strikeout and got plenty of ground balls with his sinker.

"Thats me, Cook told the Boston Herald after his outing. I pitch to contact and try to get the guys out of the box as quick as possible and get our guys off the field so they can come in and hit. Today I did everything I went out there to accomplish.

Cook has now pitched a total of 5 13 innings without allowing a run in Grapefruit League action. Saturday, he threw 39 pitches, 24 of them for strikes.

With a number of younger pitchers (Andrew Miller, Felix Doubront) out of options, Cook may have a difficult time making the 25-man roster for Opening Day. In all likelihood, he'll head to Pawtucket, then have a decision to make when his May 1 opt-out date arrives.

Still, Cook isn't totally writing off his chances.
"I think theres time (to make the team),'' he told the Herald, "but well have to see how it plays out. Two and a half weeks is a long time. Theres a lot of stuff that can happen. I feel really good, and its a good place to be in. Im pretty happy.

At the very least, he can be a lot happier than Carlos Silva. Like Cook, Silva had a history of shoulder woes and was signed to a minor league deal in January. But Silva was released Saturday and Cook continues to battle for a roster spot.

Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

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Hightower, Branch will begin training camp on PUP list

The Patriots will be without two of last year's defensive starters when training camp begins later this week. 

Both Dont'a Hightower and Alan Branch were placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday. They are eligible to come off the list at any time. Once they are removed from the list, they will be eligible to practice fully. Players on PUP count against the 90-man training-camp roster.

Undrafted rookie tackle Andrew Jelks will begin camp on the active/non-football injury list. The Vanderbilt product dealt with knee injuries that kept him off the field each of the last two seasons. 

Neither Hightower, nor Branch, nor Jelks participated in spring practices at Gillette Stadium. Hightower was present for voluntary work, but during practices open to the media he typically did some conditioning off to the side. Branch skipped optional team activities (as he usually does), and though he was in Foxboro for mandatory minicamp, he did not practice during that three-day stretch.

Hightower was limited last season with knee and shoulder injuries. The MMQB.com's Albert Breer said on Sports Sunday that Hightower's health concerns made teams reticent to make him offers that would lure him away from New England. 

Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

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Report: Patriots in talks with CB Brandon Flowers

In what’s been a somewhat busy offseason for their secondary, veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers is in talks with the Patriots, according to Adam Schefter. 

Flowers, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Chiefs and last three with the Chargers, was released in March. He is set to meet with the Cardinals this week as well. 

The Pats lost cornerback Logan Ryan this offseason, but landed the top free agent corner on the market in Stephon Gilmore. A potential addition of Flowers might give them an insurance policy if second-year pro Cyrus Jones fails to improve from a dismal rookie season. 

Flowers was limited to just six games last season, as a concussion ended his season in December. He has played in at least 11 games in the rest of his NFL seasons. His lone Pro Bowl nod came in the 2013 season.