Papelbon unworried about latest spring struggle

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Papelbon unworried about latest spring struggle

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After he turned in a clean inning Friday against the Yankees, it appeared as though Jonathan Papelbon had turned the corner from his poor outing a week ago against Minnesota, when he walked three in one-third of an inning.

Then again, perhaps not.

Papelbon struggled again Thursday in the Red Sox' 8-5 win over the New York Mets, giving up two hits and two walks, leading to four runs. Papelbon couldn't finish the inning and even one of the two outs he recorded required a nice running catch by Juan Carlos Linares.

The Sox' closer has been either very bad or very good this spring. In four of his outings, he's had clean innings and hasn't allowed a baserunner. In his other two, however, Papelbon has walked five and given up seven runs on four hits.

Papelbon insisted that he wasn't concerned despite the two rocky outings in the last week.

"No . . . nope . . . not one bit," he said. "I'm just basically trying to find my delivery and iron out the kinks before the season rolls around. That's basically it.''

Ironically, only weeks ago, when the Red Sox were still based at the Player Development Complex, Papelbon said he already felt locked in with his delivery, and remarked how unusual it was to feel that so early in camp.

"I don't feel I've fallen out of it,'' he said of his delivery. "I still feel very locked in. Right now, I'm just a tick off my mechanics. I'm not searching. I know exactly what's going on. I can feel it in my delivery.

"For me, it's not a big deal at all because I know it's a minor little detail for me.''

Papelbon said the spring training atmosphere, with little context or adrenaline, was perhaps a factor ('no question,'' he said) and one talent evaluator agreed, noting that Papelbon looked "disinterested'' on the mound Thursday.

"I thought today he just got out in front and was a little quick in his delivery,'' said Terry Francona. "Everything flattened out a little bit and his fastball started wandering a little bit. I think everything was flat today and good hitters don't need help elevating the ball.

"You fall behind and the ball's flat. That's what it looked like to me.''

"It's spring training,'' said Papelbon, "and I'm trying to get my delivery where it's perfect every day and right now, it's just not. It's still spring. It is what it is.''

Francona said Papelbon's next outing will probably involve throwing two innings at the minor-league complex.

"I think that will be good for him,'' he said.

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

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."