Notes: Lowrie happy to be healthy for spring training

191542.jpg

Notes: Lowrie happy to be healthy for spring training

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Of late, there has been talk that Jed Lowrie might be able to unseat incumbent shortstop Marco Scutaro with a strong showing in spring training.

General manager Theo Epstein said last week that competition is a good thing for a club. But prior to Thursday's Boston Baseball Writers' Award dinner, manager Terry Francona seemed to back Scutaro.

"Lowrie comes up and gets an opportunity last year because a lot of guys were beat up,'' said Francona, "and he hits the ball all over the ballpark. He has the ability to play four different infield positions.

"Rather than worry about an infield competition -- Scutaro is our shortstop -- this guy Lowrie gives us something that I don't know many teams can say they have. He's a switch-hitter that can play first, second, third and short -- and play it a lot. He can play first base. He can play second base, third, short. He can play it for a week. He can play it for a day. He can play it for two weeks.

"That, at some point, is probably going to save us . . . And he's a switch-hitter, to boot. There's a lot to really like. Jed is certainly an everyday player, in our opinion. It may not happen in April. But that's not really a bad thing."

If nothing else, Lowrie is happy to be heading into spring training finally healthy, having been hampered the last two offseasons with a hand injury, then battling through mononucleosis last spring training.

"The difference is the quality of work I've been able to do,'' said Lowrie, "just because I've had my health, so I can really tell a difference in the quality of work I've been able put in. It seems like it's been so long (since I was healthy).''

Francona had positive health updates for a number of players who suffered
injuries last season.

''Adrian Gonzalez will be behind everybody else for sure (after October shoulder surgery),'' said Francona, "and it will be important, when we get down to spring training, to get a gauge on where he is. We don't want to set him back. If he's a little slower than everybody else, that's not the end of the world.

"We certainly want him playing, but he want him playing healthy. We can handle missing a guy for a week; we don't want to be missing a guy for two months.''

Kevin Youkilis, who underwent thub surgery last August, was nearly 100 percent in October, shortly after the season ended.

"He's been fine,'' said Francona of Youkilis. "Dustin Pedroia is doing terrific and Jacoby Ellsbury has a clean bill of health.''

Also on hand Thursday night were former Red Sox minor-leaguer Anthony Rizzo;
Sox outfielders Ryan Kalish and Darnell McDonald; pitchers Clay Buchholz and Rich Hill; pitching coach Curt Young; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, and Detroit Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit.

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

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."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

world_series_francona_epstein_102416.png

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.