Francona on the state of the Red Sox

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Francona on the state of the Red Sox

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Earlier in the week, general manager Theo Epstein addressed a number of topics on the eve of spring training. Sunday, it was manager Terry Francona's turn.

Some highlights on a variety of issues:

On the team's potential: "I think our expectations are high. They should be. Our front office and ownership did a terrific job this winter...I think we've had high expectations for the last eight or nine years. But I don't think we'll be consumed by the pressure of our expectations.''

On JD Drew's balky hamstring: "It's something that he has voiced some concern about. He went and saw Dr. (James) Andrews and came up to Boston. I don't think he's real concerned about it. It's been there. I don't think we want it to be a concern. We'll certainly monitor it.''

On the timetable for Adrian Gonzalez to see game action: "I know he feels like he's ahead of the projections. But until he sees (the doctor who performed the shoulder surgery), it would be kind of silly for me to guess. We'll go completely by what that checkup says so there's no reason to really guess on that one.''

On Dustin Pedroia's workload this spring: "We'd rather not beat up guys for no reason. We'll keep an eye on him. He's pretty honest with me about stuff. We realize what's happened to him; we'll keep an eye on him.''

On the catching situation: ""We've got (Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamachia) and I think we're pretty comfortable with that, maybe more than people realize. Salty's had a tremendous winter. This guy's potentially a power-hitting switch-hitting catcher, but if that doesnt' come to fruition right away, that's not the end of the world. But we love the way that he wants to run the game. And Tek's in a good spot.''

On Jonathan Papelbon's motivation to bounce back: "There's maybe various reasons why he wants to bounce back. I'm not sure I care (what they are), whether it's financial or whatever. I just want him to get a bunch of saves.''

On Jacoby Ellsbury: "He missed a lot of time. Does that, early on, sort of slow him down? We'll see. I hope not. If it does though, we have ways to take the pressure off him. We can hit him lower in the lineup. If he's feeling good, we'd love for him to lead off. If he's not, we can protect him (by hitting him lower).''

On Daniel Bard: "Bard is probably the ultimate weapon in the bullpen. Like maybe no other reliever in the league, he has that ability to come in, finish an inning and go back out. We'll use that to our advantage; he actually thrives on it.''

On players arriving late: "The only two potential hangups are (Alfredo) Aceves and (Dennys) Reyes. Aceves will be here, then he will have to leave to go get his visa. Dennys got permission to get it; he may be a couple of days.''

On the batting order: "We didn't spend a lot of time talking about that (in meetings). We'll get to that. I know that's the fun stuff in Boston, but it will work itself out.''

On the leadoff spot: "Whoever leads off, you want a couple of things. Speed's good, but you want him to score runs. On-base (ability is important) is more important than stolen bases. In factr, sometimes the guys who run are better off at the bottom of the order. They can run a little bit more free without making outs with your better hitters off. We'll use good judgement.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
---
Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
---
Matt Andriese P

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.