Red Sox notes: Dice-K seeing improvement

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Red Sox notes: Dice-K seeing improvement

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's too early to determine whether the recommended changes in his between-start routine are having a positive effect on Daisuke Matsuzaka. But so far, so good.

After tossing five innings of two-hit ball Tuesday in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers, Matsuzaka followed that up with 5 23 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 10-3 Sox' loss, allowing two runs on three hits.

Matsuzaka worked quickly and showed good life on his fastball.

Earlier this week, the Sox had Matsuzaka change his throwing program. He had been long-tossing and throwing a side session on the same day and the Sox believed that was taking too much of a physical toll.

"I thought he had good tempo and threw strikes,'' said Terry Francona. "That's two good starts in a row now. It looks like he's starting to gear up. I thought he was pretty good.''

"I'm following the throwing program between outings,'' said Matsuzaka. "I'm getting comfortable with the new program, but I want to keep watching it and see how it will fit me.''

The Sox are heartened by the fact that his velocity has been up in each of his last two starts, while Matsuzaka was pleased with his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes.

Matsuzaka also added that he was not concerned with being placed fifth in the Boston rotation.

The Sox got down to 40 players in camp with three roster moves.

They optioned catcher Mark Wagner and outfielder Daniel Nava to the Pawtucket roster and assigned pitcher Matt Fox to the minor-league camp.

Wagner is expected to share the PawSox' catching duties -- probably with Luis Expositio -- and Nava will be Pawtucket's starting left fielder.

Fox will pitch out of the Pawtucket bullpen.

It's likely that more cuts will be made Tuesday.

Dennys Reyes helped his bid to grab one of the two available spots in the Red Sox bullpen, pitching a scoreless inning with a hit allowed and two strikeouts. In seven spring innings, the veteran lefty has allowed five hits and fanned seven.

Rich Hill, batting for one of the same two spots, also chipped in with a scoreless inning, running his streak to seven straight outings without allowing a run.

Righty Scott Atchison wasn't so furtunate, giving up four hits and two runs in an inning and a third. Atchison's ERA for the spring is a bloated 6.48.

Former manager Joe Torre, newly appointed as MLB's vice president of baseball operations, visited before the game with Francona as part of Torre's tour of the 30 camps. Torre will be in charge of discipline and on-field operations.

Also visiting City of Palms yesterday: former Red Sox VP Charles Steinberg, now working in the commissioner's office.

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

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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.