Pats confident in Wendell

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Pats confident in Wendell

FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick watches a play during practice, he focuses on how the play is supposed to run, and if the end result was what they expected it to be.

With Ryan Wendell having made his first career start at center on Sunday against the Eagles, Belichick praised him for keeping the offensive line in tact, something that's noticed when not really noticed at all.

"Ryan's done a good job for us through the years he's been here," said Belichick on Wednesday. "And at various times, he's jumped in there in practice or preseason games. We have a lot of confidence in Ryan. He's done a good job. He's a smart guy.

"At practice, as the head coach, you can't watch every single guy on every play," added Belichick. "You've got 22 guys out there, and you can't see them all. So usually you focus on whatever your focus is on that play, whether it's a player or a group of players, or a particular aspect of a play. And you just try to look at that, because you can't see all of it.

"And there's a lot of times where you know, as a coach, when a certain player's out there. You can just feel it. And then there's other times where you really, I guess, don't know. And when that's the case, then that says a lot about the competitiveness of that player or that group of players. And I'd say that's kind of the way it is with Ryan.

It's not that Wendell's talent goes unnoticed to the point that he's a non-factor. It's just that his presence -- when on the field in practice -- keeps the offensive line playing at a consistent competitive level.

"It's the same relative level of performance," said Belichick. "I'm not saying all the players are the same. But, you know, if the play looks good, you're looking at the receivers and you're looking at the coverage, saying, 'That was a good pass. Who threw that? Was that Brady? Was that Hoyer?'

"I think he plays at a very competitive level, when he's had the opportunity to play, which has been limited," added Belichick. "With Wendell, when he's been in there . . . it seems to continue to function at a fairly efficient level."

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

Eduardo Rodriguez slated to start in Double-A Thursday; could return early July

BOSTON — Helped by a custom knee brace, starter Eduardo Rodriguez could make an early July return to the Red Sox if all goes right from here.

The lefty threw a sim game Saturday at Fenway Park, his first time facing hitters since a right knee subluxation at the start of June. He’s to stay on a five-day schedule and is slated to start for Double-A Portland on Thursday if he comes out of Saturday feeling well.

Rodriguez threw 68 pitches Saturday, manager John Farrell said, and is to throw 75-80 for Portland.

"The key for me is seeing the height of the leg kick,” Farrell said. “The brace that he's wearing now gives him such a greater feeling of stability in the knee that he can be more assertive with the lower half, so the delivery is much more Eddie-like than when he had to adjust in that game in Baltimore.”

One rehab start would be ideal, Farrell said. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Friday that Doug Fister could theoretically move to the bullpen upon Rodriguez's return. That’s still a few steps away, though. 

One, Rodriguez needs to get all the way back. Two, Fister needs to perform well enough that the Sox feel he’s worth holding on to. Fister’s first start is to come Sunday.

Rodriguez's progress has been encouraging to the Sox since he began to rehab. Without a setback, he'd return before the All-Star break, setting the team up well for the second half.

Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

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Bruins go for a defensive project late with Daniel Bukac

CHICAGO – The Bruins finished up their 2017 NHL Draft class with a bit of a project, but a 6-foot-5 defenseman with some great skating wheels is a pretty good way to go with a seventh round pick. The B’s nabbed Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Daniel Bukac with the 204th pick in the draft, and admitted afterward that he’s an ultra-big bodied player that could take some time in the development process.

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley said Boston is more than happy to be patient with Bukac given the tools that he’s working with as an 18-year-old prospect. Bukac had two goals and 17 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes in his first season in North America after coming over from the Czech Republic, and Bradley said that B’s scouts noted that he continued to improve and get comfortable as the season wore on.

"He's raw. He's a project. [He’s a] kid from the Czech Republic that played in the Western Hockey League,” said Bradley. “At the start of the year - he's come leaps and bounds with his development. Talking to the people - the coaches, the management, and the GM in Brandon, they're very excited about him coming back to Brandon. They're expecting big things from him. We look forward to seeing him in camp."

Bukac is starting to garner some good international experience after playing for the Czechs in the Under-18’s and the Ivan Hinkla Tournament, but this weekend it was all about his addition to the talented group of Bruins prospects in the hockey world.

"I'm so excited to be drafted by the Boston Bruins," said Bukac, who described himself as a solid two-way defenseman with a good first pass. "It's an awesome feeling. I'm so glad that I was drafted by Boston."