Buchholz looks strong as Red Sox tie Rays, 1-1

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Buchholz looks strong as Red Sox tie Rays, 1-1

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In their final game at City of Palms Park before they move to a new facility in Lee County for next year's spring training, the Red Sox played to a 1-1 tie with the Rays Tuesday afternoon.

Clay Buchholz went four innings, giving up one run on a hit and two walks with three strikeouts. He held the Rays hitless through 3 23 innings. In his last outing he allowed 11 runs (six earned) in four innings.

It was good, Buchholz said. I felt as good psychically as I did the other day. But things went a little bit better. I think I was down in the zone a little bit more, made some better pitches in some key situations. I felt like I was out there for a while, had a couple at-bats where I threw some good pitches they laid off of, fouled off a couple of good pitches, got deep in the count. A lot of those guys are going to be guys that we see when we face that team so I got some good looks at some good hitters and thats what I went out there for.

Tim Wakefield, Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers and Blake Maxwell followed Buchholz to the mound.

Pretty good, manager Terry Francona said of Buchholzs outing. Got his pitch count 78 pitches, 44 strikes up to about where we were comfortable, maybe a little bit earlier. His stuff was crisp. Wake came in and threw the ball real well. I think thats Wheelers best inning of the spring, which is awfully nice to see. The kid Blake Maxwell comes in every time and throws strikes.

Adrian Gonzalez hit his second home run of the spring, leading off the fourth inning with an opposite-field shot for the Sox lone run.

More important, the Red Sox got through the spring with no significant injuries. Josh Beckett gave the organization a scare when he was hit in the head by a batted ball during batting practice early in spring, suffering a mild concussion from which he rebounded with no obvious problems. Other than that, the team suffered no major health issues no small feat after losing 1,018 player-games last season to the disabled list.

Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- who both suffered season-ending injuries in 2010 -- led the starters in spring training innings, with 102 and 100, respectively. Jacoby Ellsbury, who missed all but 18 games last season with fractured ribs played 89 innings, batting .333 with a team-high three home runs and eight RBI.

Thrilled, Francona said. Theres no way you can play the games and worry about guys getting hurt, because they have to play the game right, and you have to pitch and they have to do everything they can. But again, I think it comes down to a lot of it is the guys did a good job this winter. They came into camp not limping. We didnt have to really hold back. They worked hard and they did a good job. Probably my biggest concern is guys getting off that bus playing in spring training road games, because theres just no way to get around it. But the guys really did a good job.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

Porcello following Belichick’s lead, moving 'on to 2017'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Flashback to January 2016, it’s the first night of Red Sox Winter Weekend, where fans welcome Rick Porcello with a vanilla reception -- no different than that of any one of the coaches. The right-hander is coming off a disappointing 2015, where he’d been given a four-year extension before throwing a regular season pitch and didn’t exactly perform to the level he’d hoped.

Now flash foward to Friday night, same event, just a year later. Porcello is introduced at the Town Hall event at Foxwoods to kick off the weekend and receives a welcome truly rivaled only by the AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts.

“You know, they were both pretty similar,” Porcello joked with reporters when comparing his 2016 reception to Friday’s.

Makes sense. Winning a Cy Young Award can change public perception.

But after his dominant 22-4 regular season, Porcello -- along with the rest of the starting rotation -- couldn’t deliver in the postseason. While he was visibly upset during and after his lone 2016 postseason start, Porcello is taking the Bill Belichick approach and says he's moving on from the outing -- and his memorable regular season, too.

“Just like any other start, you’ve gotta find ways to get over that stuff,” Porcello said. “It doesn’t feel good to go out there and not win Game 1, but I’m on to 2017 now -- and really everything that’s happened in 2016 is behind me. The season that I had, the postseason I had and we’re on to this year and what we can accomplish this year.”

“Moving on” from struggling times and great successes tends to bode well for athletes and players in this town. Maybe that’s what made all the difference for Porcello in making the jump from 2015 to 2016.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."