Red Sox Notes: Buchholz hasn't had it easy

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Red Sox Notes: Buchholz hasn't had it easy

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

TAMPA -- Clay Buchholz hasn't had the luxury of easing into spring training.

In his first start, he faced a stacked Minnesota Twins lineup. Then, Friday night, he drew a Yankee lineup that featured Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada.

"I looked at (the lineup card),'' said Buchholz, "and I was like, 'Man, another All-Star team.' But I think it's good. It's good facing guys like this is definitely not fun if you don't have your stuff or you're not locating.

"But it definitely makes you better, because this is the time to get better and work on your pitches.''

Buchholz rose to the early-spring challenge with three scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and two walks and struck out two.

"I worked hard coming into spring training,'' he said. "I wanted to come in, throwing three or four bullpens or live BP sessions. It's been about a month in the making before spring training. I feel good. I feel like the pitches are there. I just have to work on the command of a couple of pitches and try to stay in my delivery a little better.''

As the schedule sits, Buchholz is in line to pitch Monday, March 14, but the Sox will have him pitch a camp game rather than face a division rival two times before the season begins.

"I like facing these lineups, '' said Buchholz of the challenge, "but obviously, we face them a lot during the season. Right now, this means nothing so I'd rather face them during the season, when we have to play them for real.''

Still, Buchholz didn't hold back Friday, throwing his full repertoire of pitches.

"I wanted to try and throw all of my pitches,'' he said. "I think they're out there working, too.''

The Red Sox were encouraged by Josh Beckett's three-inning simulated game and expect him to make his next scheduled start, Tuesday, at City of Palms Park.

"He did well,'' said manager Terry Francona. "The ball came out of his hand well. I think he felt good about it. It's not like you look out there and think, 'OK, he's coming back from anything.' It was a regular day.''

Beckett will probably throw three innings Tuesday, a split-squad day for the Red Sox. They'll host Houston at home, where Beckett will throw.

Using a lineup without a single player expected to be in the Opening Day, the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 5-3 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

In the seventh, Juan Carlos Linares put the Sox ahead with a single and infield prospect Oscar Tejeda followed with a two-run triple, scoring Che-Hsuan Lin and Linares.

The Sox had broken a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth when Daniel Nava smacked a run-scoring single.

The Yankees managed a run off reliever Brandon Duckworth in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI-double from Robinson Cano. They added two more off Tony Pena Jr in the bottom of the ninth.

Adrian Gonzalez took his first swings against the pitching machine Friday and will intensify his workload each day.

"He did the normal progression (with balls off the tee and soft tosses), said Francona, "and then he finished up with 10 swings off the machine and he felt pretty good about it. I think he finished up with about 80 swings and felt really good. He's pretty excited.''

Francona said "intensity and amount,'' will increase daily for Gonzalez, with an eye toward taking his first live batting practice later next week before graduating to game action the week after.

"He's doing well,'' said Francona. "But (the timetable) will all go on how he feels.''

Jed Lowrie got his first pro start at first base Friday night. As the team's likely lone utility infielder, he needs some playing time in case he gets thrown into a game in the event of an injury to Adrian Gonzalez during the season.

"He's a shortstop by trade, so he certainly is not going to have a tough time catching the ball,'' said Francona. "His reactions (at first), when the ball's hit, I still think he has to think his way through it. At second, short and third, it's more instinctual for him. So the more he's over at first, the better that will be.''

The Sox have received permission from all of their National League road opponents this spring to use the DH in those games...Francona watched David Wells, obviously slimmer, throw batting practice to the Yankees. Told by a New York reporter that Wells hadn't eaten any carbs in two months, Francona cracked: "I wonder what else he's throwing in there, though.''

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

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

Red Sox exercise 2018 option on John Farrell's contract

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- When Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski almost casually mentioned in October that John Farrell would return for the 2017 season, he was, predictably asked about the option that the club held on the manager for 2018.

Dombrowski noted that he would speak to ownership about that matter over the off-season. Apparently, it didn't take long.

The Red Sox announced Monday that the team had, indeed, exercised the option on Farrell, putting him on a guaranteed deal through the next two seasons.

"John's done a real fine job for us,'' said Dombrowski. "We had a very good year last year. I thought he did a good job handling the club. We're in a position where we have a good working relationship. He has the respect of our players; our players played hard for him, so we're very happy to have done that.

"It puts stability to our staff going into spring training.''

Dombrowski said the issue would have been addressed sooner, but the team had to deal with the departures of former GM Mike Hazen, former bench coach Torey Lovullo and other front office members.

"There were just so many issues that happened after (the end of the season),'' he noted. "There was no rush. This didn't have to be exercised until 10 days after (the competition of the 2017 season)... (But) John has a solid presence to himself, leadership capabilities, yet I also find him very open-minded when we have conversations. I think he's done a very fine job.''

Farrell became a focal point for criticism from the team's fan base and some in the media when the Red Sox struggled to separate themselves from the rest of the American League East in the first half of the season.

After winning a World Series in his first season at the Sox' helm in 2013, Farrell managed the Sox to a last-place finish in 2014, and the team was mired in the East basement in mid-August of 2015 when it was revealed that Farrell was battling lymphoma.

He took a leave of absence for the final seven weeks of the season and when the team's record improved under Lovullo, acting as interim manager, the pressure on Farrell was turned up for 2016, with Lovullo, Farrell's long-time friend, seen as the heir apparent should the team under-perform.

That pressure remained hot until the final month when a hot streak vaulted the Sox into first place and carried them into the post-season, where the team was swept out of the Division Series by Cleveland.

"I'm thrilled that (the option) has been exercised, obviously,'' said Farrell. "I love the city, the organization, the players that we have. This is an exciting young team - the young core group of players that we talk about is developing year after year.

"(This was the) first full year that Dave and I had a chance to work together and I appreciate his confidence...We addressed and faced a lot of challenges over the course of the season and we came out of it stronger and in a better place.''

Farrell maintained that "the status of my contract never changed (how I managed) day-in, day-out. And it won't going forward. My focus is what we can do (on a given) night to win a game and put our players in the best position to succeed. And that won't change.''

In four years, Farrell owns a 339-309 record (.523 winning percentage). He joined Joe Morgan as the only Red Sox managers to guide the team to multiple division titles.

 

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.