Francona: Red Sox facing 'tough' decisions

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Francona: Red Sox facing 'tough' decisions

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. With just two weeks to go before Opening Day, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said his team will spend the remaining time in Fort Myers working on fundamentals, something his team has been able to focus on only sporadically recently because of scheduling.

Well, we still have some fundamentals that we need to cover, Francona said. We got to get through the next three or four days. We got three games in the next 24 hours. So, our travel schedule here is not real conducive to sometimes getting our work done. Its not a complaint. Its just stating the facts. We spend a lot of time on buses because of where were located. So we try to do our fundamentals periodically. When we have a couple home games well spend a little extra time doing stuff like that . . . Once we get through with this stretch, well probably pare the number in camp down a little bit more and well get in the last of our fundamentals.

After this stretch a split-squad, day-night, home-away doubleheader on Friday, and a game in Bradenton Saturday against the Pirates the Red Sox will make additional roster moves, paring the number from the current 43.

But, with every position on the roster just about set, there remain very few spots open one or possibly two spots in the bullpen. Who will fill those spots are the real decisions. Those in the mix include left-handers Andrew Miller, Randy Williams, Dennys Reyes, Hideki Okajima, and Rich Hill, and righties Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Brandon Duckworth, Michael Bowden, Matt Fox, Alfredo Aceves, and Tim Wakefield.

Franconas decisions this spring are a little different than in past springs.

Just as difficult, but for different reasons.

In the past, I think weve had real tough decisions, he said. This year its a little different because I think we feel like we have good depth. Sometimes youre making a decision out of like, Uh-oh, somebodys got to emerge here where youre kind of scrambling. Last year we brought lefty reliever Scott Schoeneweis in late. This year we feel like weve got a lot of good decisions to make. Its going to be tough on some guys because they probably feel like they deserve to make the team.

Nobodys really separated themselves in a bad way. Everybodys kind of done what we hoped theyd do, were going to have some decisions to make. Its tough for guys, but its a good way to set up your team."

Dont expect any hints from Francona on who his picks will be.

I would never sit here and talk about somebody being on the team, he said. I cant do that. Thats so disrespectful to the players. I would never do that. Thatd be awful.

He did acknowledge, though, that Wakefield and Aceves, for example, could fill similar roles long relief, spot starts but with very different styles.

Reyes, who got to camp late from Mexico because of visa issues, has pitched five innings over five games, giving up one earned run. He is scheduled to pitch in Friday afternoons game against the Tigers.

I think hes a little bit behind, Francona said. We certainly have to make a decision with him. But hes got that two-seam, when the balls down and hes got the late-breaking slider. Just want to see how consistent he is.

Were going to have some interesting decisions to make here, Francona said.

Fortunately, guys have really shown well. Im sure pitching coach Curt Young and I and general manager Theo Epstein and assistant GM Ben Cherington will sit down, as we have been, and try to make the best decisions, not only for Opening Day but for the organization. Its going to be tough.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Tuesday's Red Sox-Orioles lineups: E-Rod makes 2016 debut

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Tuesday's Red Sox-Orioles lineups: E-Rod makes 2016 debut

Eduardo Rodriguez makes his 2016 Red Sox debut tonight, and he'll have a different center fielder as he does so.

Jackie Bradley Jr. on paternity leave and Chris Young is taking his place in center. The rest of the lineup, however, remains intact as the Sox face the Orioles in their second game of their four-game series in Baltimore.

The lineups:

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young CF
Blake Swihart LF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Eduardo Rodriguez P

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Nolan Reimold LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Matt Wieters C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Joey Rickard RF
Paul Janish 3B
---
Kevin Gausman P

 

 

Bradley takes paternity leave; Red Sox recall Castillo

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Bradley takes paternity leave; Red Sox recall Castillo

BALTIMORE -- The Red Sox will be without center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. for the next few days, as he is placed on the paternity-leave list to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

Rusney Castillo, who was sent to Pawtucket in the second week of the season, has been recalled to take his roster spot. Castillo has a slash line of .241/.302/.317 with the PawSox, with 1 home run and 13 RBI in 37 games. 

Bradley is in the midst of a breakout season with the Red Sox, hitting .331/.409/.601 in 50 games with 9 homers and 37 RBI.

Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

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Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- Near the start of his Red Sox career, Tim Wakefield -- who would wind up pitching 17 years for the club and would tie for the most number of wins in franchise history -- was largely on his own.

One of Wakefield's first pitching coaches in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, regarded knuckleballers as little more than freakish performers.

When Wakefield encountered mechanical issues, Kerrigan could offer little assistance. The pitch was unpredictable, and in Kerrigan's mind, so was the pitcher. The same rules that helped Kerigan dissect and analyze a conventional pitcher's issues wouldn't work with Wakefield.

That frustrated both coach and pitcher, as Wakefield was left to fend for himself.

More than once, as Wakefield foundered, Kerrigan essentially told him: "There's nothing I can do to help you; you're on your own.''

Steven Wright has far more at his disposal, and it's one of the reasons Wright has enjoyed a run of consistency that often eluded Wakefield. There's help available, assistance that Wright readily takes full advantage of.

If throwing a knuckleball hasn't exactly developed into a science, it's certainly far more advanced than it was in 1995, when Wakefield arrived in Boston.

In the middle of a season that has seen him post an ERA of 2.45 and toss a league-best three complete games, Wright has has developed his game fully.

He regularly changes speeds with the knuckler, adding one more complicating factor to an already mystifying pitch.

Depending on the conditions, the hitter, and the score, Wright can either add or subtract to the velocity of his signature pitch. On Monday, when he limited the Orioles to two runs on four hits in a 7-2 Memorial Day victory, he offered knuckleballs as slow as 59 mph and fastballs as fast as 83 mph.

"I like it,'' said Wright, "especially against a lineup like [the Orioles]. They're a very aggressive team. In that inning they scored the two runs (the fifth), I kind of got caught up in the same speed. So I kind of went out there after that and concentrated on not throwing too many at the same speed. It kind of throws them off, because I'm hoping that if I leave one up, the difference in the speed will get them out front.''

But perhaps Wright's biggest step forward this season -- the first in which he began the season as a full-time starter in the rotation -- is the ability to detect and correct flaws within a game, sometimes within an inning. Again, this stands in stark contrast to Wakefield, who was notoriously streaky. When Wakefield was trending in a positive fashion, both he and the club could only hope that it continued. When he hit a rut, however, there was telling how long he would scuffle, unable to reverse his downhill slide.

Wright has no such issues. He can often tell -- and if he doesn't, pitching coach Carl Willis can help -- when his delivery has gone askew. Better yet, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it.

"Absolutely,'' agreed Wright. "It's my fifth year doing it and I've worked tirelessly with Wake and [bullpen coach Dana Levangie] and Carl and that's one thing we've concentrated on, is staying within that delivery. Because it's all about staying relaxed and repeating my delivery -- especially for me, but really, any pitcher. Because I'm getting more years, more reps, it's become a little more easier to make an adjustment pitch-to-pitch.''

"He's shown that [ability] in a number of starts this year,'' said manager John Farrell. "That's a testament to someone who knows more about himself, to have those checkpoints.''

Ironically, it was Wakefield himself -- who got so little help for periods of his own career -- who offered Wright a key checkpoint last season.

"He had me move my hands back,'' recalled Wright. "What it does is, it helps me lock my shoulders in a place so I don't get rotational. That's one of the biggest things because if I started feeling that I'm getting rotational, then there's something off.

"It could be a number of things, but I feel like that's the biggest adjustment that I made. It's a small one, but it's huge in keeping everything within reason. Because I'm not a power pitcher, I don't need to reach back and get something (extea in terms of velocity) so when I do throw a fastball, it's the same mechanical look.''

Wright seemed on the verge of becoming undone in the second inning Monday. With two outs, he walked two hitters, allowed an infield single and loaded the bases.

But from the dugout, Willis noticed that Wright was rushing with his delivery.

''I had a hard time [noticing] it,'' said Wright, "but he could definitely see it. We work tirelessly, especially when Wake is around, to try to find some mechanical things so Carl can help me out if I need it. Same thing with [catchers Ryan] Hanigan and [Christian] Vazquez -- they see it too, because I'm throwing to them all the time.''

All of which has Wright among the game's ERA leaders and tied in the complete game category with the likes of Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw.

"I definitely sometimes pinch myself," he said, "like, 'Man, is this real?' "