Biggest man on campus: Aaron Civale

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
10:21
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Biggest man on campus after Tuesday's double-header against Northeastern and Boston College?

That would be Northeastern right-hander Aaron Civale, a sophomore from East Windsor, Conn., who struck out David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez in succession in the first, then struck out Mike Napoli and Xander Bogaerts in the second.

“He didn’t back away from the names in the box or the name on the jersey," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “He had a good late cutter, attacked the strike zone. From a sheer baseball standpoint, it was good to see."
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Her son could not be here. He has been dealing with a bout of pneumonia and remains in rehab after undergoing a tracheotomy.

But with the Boston Red Sox lined up on the third-base line at JetBlue Park Tuesday afternoon and the Boston College Eagles doing the same on the first-base line, all wearing jerseys that said “Frates” on the back and bore his number 3, Nancy Frates was determined that her son Pete was not going to miss this.

So she had him on her cellphone, Facetiming him, urging players from both teams to shout greetings to the former BC captain who has become the nation’s most remarkable advocate in the battle against the horrific disease that afflicts him, ALS.

It has been three years since Pete Frates, a lifelong Red Sox fan, was diagnosed with ALS. Last year, as the face to the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that became a social media phenomenon, Frates helped raise in excess of $100 million for ALS research. He also became a father for the first time, and an ambassador of inspiration with few equals.

BC coach Mike Gambino, whose team already planned to wear replicas of the uniforms that Frates had worn while at BC, had contacted the Sox to see if they might join in the tribute. Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy loved the idea, which led to Tuesday’s moving scene.

Red Sox manager John Farrell embraced Nancy Frates Tuesday afternoon. Last summer, Farrell was among the members of the Sox, including team owners Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, who took the “Ice Bucket Challenge.’’ He also was present when Frates, who had homered in Fenway Park while playing for the Eagles, had a bucket of ice water dumped over him in the Fenway outfield.

Farrell was asked if he had spent enough time around Frates, now 30, and his family to feel a connection.

“I don’t know how you can’t,’’ he said. “You witness someone who has dealt with an unfortunate situation, the challenge he’s dealing with, his family is dealing with, to see the way they’ve handled it with grace and a heightened awareness.

“I was shocked to hear the amount of funds raised by their approach. Incredible. I don’t know how you can’t take inspiration from their family and what they’re going through. We’re fortunate to be able to get involved.’’

The uniforms worn by both teams are being auctioned off to benefit the Pete Frates “3” Fund. Bids are opening at $100. You can submit a bid HERE.

“When you see someone healthy and vibrant, someone in their early 20s, and see what disease can do to someone, it makes you press pause and step back,’’ said Farrell, who had experienced a profound health scare with his son Luke, who was discovered to have a golfball-sized tumor in his neck and needed multiple surgeries to remove it, the family relieved to learn it was benign.

“The one thing you’re most grateful for is good health. “In this case, [Pete Frates and his family] aRe making a positive of an otherwise challenging time.’’
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Where to find the ties that bind?

Wade Miley suggests you start with a golf course. That’s the place, he said Tuesday, where the five members of Boston’s revamped starting rotation have begun the bonding process.

“That’s what golf does,’’ the Red Sox left-hander said. “Any time you get to play golf, it’s going to be fun here.’’

Ask Miley the pecking order of pitchers based on their prowess on the links, and you get an answer suspiciously similar to the one you get when asking their order in the rotation.

“It’s pretty competitive,’’ he said, “but I think we’re all the same, just knocking it around, just having a good time.’’

[+] EnlargePorcello
Michael Ivins/Getty ImagesRick Porcello retired all six hitters he faced in his Red Sox spring debut.
Anyone expecting Miley to rank fellow starters Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson and himself from top to bottom was bound to be disappointed, which is about the same reaction Porcello evoked when asked what it would mean to start Opening Day.

“I think our goal as a team is the same,’’ he said. “I don’t care who pitches Opening Day. I don’t care who pitches the second, third, fourth or fifth game. The ring is the only thing that matters.’’

Logic points to Buchholz being the Opening Day starter. He’s the only one of the five who has been here for more than a half hour, or so it seems. Kelly came in a trading-deadline deal with the Cardinals last July; Miley, Porcello and Masterson all were added in the offseason, Miley and Porcello by trade, Masterson via free-agent signing. Buchholz is entering his ninth season with the Sox, beginning with a four-start stint in 2007 that included a no-hitter, and if he’s healthy he’s deserving.

By having Buchholz, Porcello and Miley all pitch in Tuesday’s college doubleheader, manager John Farrell was offering no clue as to which pitcher would go April 6 against the Phillies. And there’s plenty of time in spring training to make alterations to whatever order he may be considering at this moment.

But without being overly touchy-feely, there was a clue Tuesday to how this rotation is coming together. Porcello and Buchholz, whose work had been completed long before Miley took the mound against Boston College in the second game, were in the dugout to greet Miley when his two scoreless innings of work were over.

“It was cool to come out and see those guys standing there,’’ said Miley, who did the same for Buchholz and Porcello in the first game. “Big-time support. We’ve got to lean on each other throughout the year; why not start right now?’’

Buchholz went comebacker, line out and whiff in a 1-2-3 first inning against Northeastern, throwing 9 of 13 pitches for strikes. Porcello did not allow a ball out of the infield in retiring six straight over the next two innings, recording consecutive strikeouts on called third strikes. Miley, against BC, gave up one hit and was charged with a balk, but registered three ground outs, a line out and two strikeouts.

Of the 15 outs recorded by the three starters, seven came via grounders, five by K’s. If Sox starters are right this season, you should be seeing a lot of that. Sox stats maestro Jon Shestakofsky notes there were 34 pitchers last season who threw 125 innings or more and had a ground-ball rate of 50 percent or better. The Sox acquired three of them in a two-day span last December: Masterson, Miley and Porcello.

“If it’s in the air,’’ Miley said, “I’m not doing my job.’’

Porcello’s first action with the Sox lacked the drama provided by the man for whom he was traded, Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a grand slam Tuesday for the Tigers. But Porcello threw strikes, kept the ball down and said his arm felt good, the kinds of things you want to hear from a pitcher his first time out.

Miley, who works fast on the mound, would have liked to have had more consistent command of his sinker, but figures that will come with time. Buchholz is continuing to work on modifying his leg kick and his landing spot, knowing it will allow him to throw his changeup more often for strikes.

And Farrell, while not wanting to give it more weight than it deserves, was pleased to see the way they’re pulling for each other.

“It’s very important, the support among the five,’’ he said. “They can learn from one another. We’ve had a number of meetings with the five on what they want and what we want to get out of them. There’s been some sort to bond, but it still comes down to how they pitch and the quality of their innings.’’
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox have yet to announce the signing of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, who agreed last week to a record $31.5 million signing bonus and underwent physical exams here and in Boston last Wednesday and Thursday.

According to a league source, the delay is just a matter of the Red Sox awaiting the results of the drug testing administered to Moncada. There is a chance Moncada will report to the team's minor league camp before the end of the week.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where the Red Sox scored a total of three runs in 15 innings but still swept the visiting lads from the halls of academia, Northeastern and Boston College, 2-1 (8 innings) and 1-0, respectively, in their annual doubleheader.

• The Sox are now 13-0 overall against the Huskies, 25-0 against the Eagles.

• With Philadelphia Phillies scout Charlie Kerfeld watching from behind home plate, catcher Blake Swihart’s two-out single brought home Jemile Weeks, who had tripled, with the only run of the second game. Swihart, of course, has been mentioned as a prime Phillies target in trade talks for left-hander Cole Hamels.

[+] EnlargeClock
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesA new clock counting down the time in between innings didn't have any impact on Red Sox pitchers.
• A throwing error by Northeastern shortstop Michael Foster scored Luke Montz, who had opened the eighth inning with a walk, to break a 1-1 tie in the first game.

• Pitchers on both sides dominated. The Sox, who played what looked like a reasonable facsimile of a regular-season lineup in the first game, managed just four hits in the first game, all singles. They had six hits in the second game, with Weeks (a double to go along with his triple) furnishing the only extra-base hits of the afternoon.

Seven Sox pitchers, meanwhile, held Northeastern to a single hit, a double by junior Rob Fonseca off bullpen candidate Anthony Varvaro in the fourth inning. After minor league outfielder Henry Ramos singled in a run after a couple of walks in the fifth, the Huskies tied it in the seventh on a throwing error by shortstop Jeff Bianchi, a nonroster invitee.

Clay Buchholz (3 up, 3 down) and Rick Porcello (6 up, 6 down) encountered no difficulty in their first outings. Wade Miley started the second game and went two innings. He gave up a hit and was charged with a balk. “I don’t think the umpire has seen a pickoff move as good as his,’’ Sox manager John Farrell said.

• Farrell cited rookie left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who pitched a scoreless inning in the first game, and Cuban reliever Dalier Hinojosa, who was credited with the save in the second game, as looking particularly impressive.

Daniel Nava, who has been urged by the Sox to hit exclusively from the left side, faced a left-hander, Boston College freshman Carmen Giampetruzzi, and took a called third strike in the fourth. He faced him again in the sixth and tapped back to the pitcher.

• New outfielder Hanley Ramirez played four innings in left field and did not field a chance. He gave center fielder Mookie Betts a wide berth when Fonseca doubled off the wall in left-center.

• The Sox came out of the day healthy with the possible exception of Rusney Castillo, who felt soreness in his left side on his last at-bat and will be re-examined Wednesday, Farrell said. Castillo started in center field and batted leadoff in the second game, lining a single to center on the first pitch he saw.

David Ortiz, who missed all of spring training in 2013 and was 2-for-37 with 13 strikeouts last spring, struck out in both of his at-bats Tuesday. But he kept his feet in the batter’s box. Farrell said umpires won’t be paying attention to the one-foot-in-the-box rule this spring; the focus during exhibition games will be on the clocks tracking time between innings.

“Didn’t pay attention to it,’’ Miley, a fast worker, said of the clocks.

“Honestly didn’t pay any attention to it,’’ Porcello said.

Northeastern to face Sox 'A' team

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
12:56
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Farrell's first lineup of spring could easily be the same one the Red Sox manager posts in the visitors' dugout in Philadelphia for the regular-season opener April 6 in Philadelphia.

The only difference is that the Sox will be using a DH, David Ortiz, against the Northeastern Huskies, while they will not have that option against the National League's Phillies in April.

Here's the lineup:

Mookie Betts, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, LF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Mike Napoli, 1B
Shane Victorino, RF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Christian Vazquez, C
Clay Buchholz, RHP

Of note:

-- Ramirez's first game in left field in front of a faux Monster

-- Betts drawing the nod in the leadoff spot and in center field as he competes with Rusney Castillo, who will play in the second game against Boston College

-- First time in a Sox uniform for new third baseman Pablo Sandoval

-- Shane Victorino batting left-handed for the first time in over a year

-- Xander Bogaerts' first game to show he has indeed improved his first-step quickness at short

-- Dustin Pedroia hitting unencumbered by thumb and wrist injuries

-- Rick Porcello, who is scheduled to follow Buchholz and pitch two innings, seeing his first game action in a Boston uniform.

-- A play clock above the 379 foot sign in left center to track between innings and time it takes a reliever to enter the game from the bullpen

Ortiz, incidentally, begins this season as the longest-tenured member of any team in the major leagues, having played 1,656 games for the Red Sox. He also leads all active players in home runs for one team with 408. Overall, Ortiz has 466 home runs, 34 from 500.

Here's the lineup for the second game against Boston College:

Rusney Castillo, CF
Jemile Weeks, 2B
Daniel Nava, LF
Allen Craig, 1B
Garin Cecchini, 3B
Ryan Hanigan, C
Travis Shaw, DH
Jackie Bradley Jr., RF
Deven Marrero, SS
Wade Miley, p

It should surprise no one that Phillies super scout Charlie Kerfeld is in the house, given the ongoing speculation regarding a trade involving Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.

Game time temperature here, by the way, is 84.

Schilling fights back against Twitter trolls

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
9:36
AM ET
video

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling didn’t just lash out at Twitter trolls who responded offensively to his congratulatory note to his daughter, he shined a spotlight on the growing problem of cyberbullying and even identified some of the individuals who attacked his daughter on social media.

This all started with this tweet from a proud father Sunday:



Schilling said he expected some inappropriate responses, but nothing like the some of the vulgar tweets he received directed as his daughter.

“I expected the trolls,” he told Boston sports radio station WEEI on Tuesday morning. “The one kid kind of came at me and said, ‘I can’t wait to take your daughter out.’ Kind of borderline stuff, which again, I expected. I’ve been on the Internet since, I started playing on computers in 1980, so I understand how it works and I knew there would be stuff. The stuff that they did, that is not bad or vile, it’s illegal. It’s against the law.

“When that started -- again, I thought it might be a one-off, but then it started to steamroll. And then [my daughter] started to get private correspondence and then I said 'OK, this needs to get fixed.’ This generation of kids doesn’t understand, and adults too, doesn’t understand that the Internet is not even remotely anonymous.”

Any angry Schilling took to his blog to call out the behavior and even identified a couple of the offenders by name.

One of the offenders outed by Schilling was a part-time ticket-seller for the Yankees and has since been fired, the team’s director of communications confirmed to NJ.com.

Another, a student at a community college in New Jersey, was reportedly suspended from school.

You can read more reaction from Schilling, who is also an ESPN baseball analyst, on WEEI.com.

Monday takeaways: Spring opener on deck

March, 2, 2015
Mar 2
4:07
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- More than a month remains before the Boston Red Sox open the regular season against the Philadelphia Phillies, but it seemed more like a matter of days given the line of questions and activity at Fenway South on Monday.

Pitchers Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley worked on their bunting skills and designated hitter David Ortiz addressed whether he would sit or play first base at 3:05 p.m. on Monday, April 6, in Philadelphia, where the Red Sox will be adhering to National League rules.

“Since it’s the beginning of the season, I’ll have to go out there and play first base a few times,” Ortiz said. “It’s not a big deal.

“It’s something that I’m not really thinking about right now. All I worry about right now is just working on my timing in hitting. I’ll work on the basic things that I do when I play first base. I’ll do the drills. But it’s not something I’m really worried about.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell said his team would continue to, by mutual agreement, use the DH while at visiting National League teams in spring training, something that will happen seven times.

“We may opt out of that later in camp,” Farrell said.

Boston’s final two spring training road games are March 24 at the Marlins and March 27 at the Braves. Boston closes spring training with nine consecutive games against American League opponents.

“Me and a couple of the coaches were talking about that situation,” Ortiz said of opening the regular season with interleague play. “We’ve got to go out and play the National League at the beginning of the season. We have a history there of playing in the middle of the season where it might not be as big a deal.”

Play ball: The Red Sox open with their traditional college doubleheader at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday at JetBlue Park.

Half of the team will face Northeastern University in the opener, with the other half playing Boston College.

Farrell said he would not announce the lineups until Wednesday morning, but the Red Sox did post their players for each matchup. Most of the projected regulars will play against Northeastern:


When the Sox face BC, every player -- amateur and professional alike -- will be wearing the same number -- No. 3. And every Eagle will bear the same name on his back: Frates.

The Eagles and Red Sox are teaming up to honor Pete Frates, the former BC outfielder whose battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at least partially inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the country this past summer.

So far, so healthy: Other than outfielder Bryce Brentz, who tweaked a knee, everyone is ready to go. And even Brentz said Monday the knee injury is minor and he should be ready for spring training games.

“We’ll know more about Bryce Brentz in the morning,” Farrell said. “That’s the only pending situation.

“For pitchers to throw without a screen in front of them and see where the game is playing ... The guys are more than ready for the next phase.”

Victorino a ‘full go’: Victorino will be in the lineup against Northeastern on Tuesday. "He'll be full go with no restrictions, all baseball activities. And most important, there hasn't been any need for rest time or recovery. He's answered every physical question to date."

Ortiz assisting Castillo: Rusney Castillo, the Cuban outfielder and native Spanish speaker who will be vying to make the regular season roster, has been getting help from David Ortiz in translating. “He’s a good kid,” Ortiz said. “When we were working on base running, I was kind of working on the translating, just to make sure he understands everything. We want to make sure when he’s out there, he knows how important the base running is.

“The language barrier is a little bit of an issue. So we just want to make sure that he understands everything. We’ve made it clear for him to ask questions. Asking questions is not a problem. And he’s more open to asking questions of the players.”

Castillo, who has perhaps the team’s most distinguished of haircuts -- a Mohawk with designs etched into his head -- said in Spanish that he gets his hair done in Miami, where his wife is staying.

Farrell on the spring training outlook: “It’s a different group. There’s two things at work here. One is we have the disappointment that we went through a year ago. And there’s the excitement that we have for the new players we have traded for or signed in free agency. That has gotten us to this point in camp. There has been a lot of positive energy. There has been a lot of attention to detail to the drills we have been running. Guys are responding well physically to the work they have done in the offseason. They have taken care of the work they have done from a pitching standpoint.”

Takeaways from the Fort: Craig looks good

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
5:26
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort on Day 10 of Red Sox camp:

Is Allen Craig trade bait? If so, the market soon could be trending up.

Manager John Farrell said Sunday that Craig is showing “much more life in the bat” and looking physically strong after battling a left foot Lisfranc injury in 2014 and hitting just .128 for the Red Sox following the trade that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals.

“The foot’s not an issue at this point and we don’t anticipate it to be,” Farrell said. “You just see increased core strength and better bat speed. And I know it’s just BP, but he looks different than when we got him. Let’s face it: The shock of the trade is in the rear-view mirror more so now than when he came to us.”

Of course, if you’re a cynic, the only sensible thing for Farrell to do would be to serve up a glowing early report.

• Farrell lauded new third baseman Pablo Sandoval for his work in helping younger players.

“He takes pride in that,” Farrell said. “It’s been refreshing in a way that he asks that it’s OK for him to impart some of the things he’s been taught to younger guys. You only get reports on an individual before they get to you, but when you interact with a guy -- in Pablo’s case daily -- you recognize he cares about his teammates, he cares about the way the game is played, in addition to being a very talented guy. So that has been above and beyond what we had anticipated.”

Said Sandoval, “The coaching staff lets me teach what I’ve learned so far because the things inside the game, I have great communication with this staff and with people. It’s one of the things that makes us a better team.”

Sandoval has said he feels like he’s been able to fit in well because of similarities in the organizational and clubhouse cultures between the Red Sox and his old team, the Giants.

Asked about that, Farrell said, “When you win a World Series as frequently as they have, or even as frequently as we have, it goes above and beyond the talent on a roster. There’s got to be a cohesiveness, there’s got to be a feeling inside a clubhouse that there’s unity, there’s the feeling that you’ve got one another’s back to pick up a guy on a day when he might need it. I don’t know (Giants manager) Bruce Bochy’s style, but clearly it’s been a very successful one. Seemingly leaders emerge in his clubhouse and they carry out his message. I would like to think there are quite a few similarities here.”

There might be similarities, but Sandoval did offer than the Red Sox clubhouse is “more loose, more fun.”

• Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who worked out for about four hours a day during the winter in Arizona, said his goal was to gain a lot of muscle because he felt he wore down last season, leading to a .240 batting average -- and just a .153 mark with runners in scoring position.

Farrell said he has noticed better carry on the balls Bogaerts is hitting in batting practice, but the bigger difference is in the field.

“His first-step quickness is improved over a year ago,” Farrell said. “Part of that is anticipation, but part of that is the condition he’s come to camp in.”

• Farrell said reliever Edward Mujica is 15 pounds lighter than he was a year ago, and it’s apparent in his bullpen and batting-practice sessions.

“The arm speed is quicker,” Farrell said. “Whether or not that translates into velocity, we’ll see. But it’s not uncommon for relievers to go through a heavy workload one year and maybe (a lack of velocity) showed up the following year.

“There was a little bit less velocity early in the year (in 2014), so he used his slider a little bit more, where in the past everything worked off his fastball more predominantly, so he just had to adjust to make the most of his stuff on a given day.”

• Minnie Minoso, who died Sunday at age 90, was a hero to Latin American baseball players and helped create the pathway to the United States. Minoso was born in La Habana, Cuba, and made his MLB debut in 1949. Red Sox pitching advisor and Cuba native Luis Tiant talked about Minoso’s influence in 2011: “In the Latino culture, especially Cuba, Minnie Minoso was the biggest thing in the sport. I wanted to be just like him, and when I look at him now, I still want to be like him. I am so grateful for what he did for us."

• Farrell said the Red Sox will work out Wednesday on their off day after Tuesday’s games against Boston College and Northeastern, adding that March 25 is the team’s mandated off day during spring training.

• Farrell said outfielder Bryce Brentz (right knee) has been improving and will be ready for Tuesday’s games. Brock Holt also is ready after fouling a ball of his right big toe and undergoing tests, which were negative.

• Pitchers were announced for Friday’s Grapefruit League home opener against the Marlins at JetBlue Park: Justin Masterson, Henry Owens, Koji Uehara, Miguel Celestino and Felipe Paulino.

Red Sox managing transition in outfield

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
4:19
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Communication in the outfield is going to be a huge factor this year for the Red Sox -- and they’re not taking any of it for granted.

Cuban sensation Rusney Castillo played just 10 games in center field last year after being signed and fast-tracked to Boston. Hanley Ramirez has never played the outfield as a big leaguer and also has to get used to the quirky caroms generated by the Green Monster. Right fielder Shane Victorino has never played with Castillo. And then there’s Mookie Betts, who transitioned from second base to the outfield and has just played just 37 games there as a big leaguer.

Manager John Farrell said Castillo and Betts will get equal time in center field this spring, and it’s important that they are flanked by a variety of teammates on either side because of the importance of communication on fly balls in the gap.

[+] EnlargeRusney Castillo
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesRusney Castillo and Mookie Betts will get equal time in center field this spring, Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday.
Translator Adrian Lorenzo has been working overtime with Castillo, who speaks very little English.

“Until Rusney gets familiar with that, it’s an ongoing effort for us,” Farrell said.

It’s not easy for anybody coming over from Latin America or Asia, but he believes Castillo is adjusting well.

“You can see different guys that have transitioned to the States more readily than others,” Farrell said. “Rusney seems to be settling in fine.

“That can never be underestimated, particularly in the initial language barrier, just feeling comfortable and understanding what’s being talked about around him, just in casual conversation or instruction. We empathize in that and make sure we’re going to additional lengths, whether it’s Rusney or any other player coming from Latin America or Asia, that we go to extra steps to make sure they feel comfortable.

“It’s starts with communication first and foremost. I’ve gone to Latin America many times, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling when you don’t comprehend just normal conversation around you.”

Farrell said Castillo’s English has improved steadily since he signed with the Red Sox. And that has opened up a window into who he is as a person.

“You come to find out there’s a highly intelligent guy here that has gained a level of comfort even though it’s been a short period of time,” Farrell said. “But he’s settled in well.”

Ramirez has been working with coach Arnie Beyeler, whether that involves getting an initial read on a fly ball, breaking to a projected landing spot or taking balls off the Monster in JetBlue Park.

“There are still steps in that progression remaining,” Farrell said.

Said Ramirez, “We’ve been working on the ricochet, what the ball does when it hits the wall. That’s what we’ve been doing every day -- to just get to know when the ball’s hit over my head, I know what I’ve got to do. Each day, a little bit more comfortable. Every day we’re doing a little bit extra.”

Betts said he hasn’t taken any fielding practice at all at second base this spring. Everything is being focused on becoming the best outfielder he can be.

“Big league hitters don’t miss very often,” Betts said. “Those balls they hit carry through the gaps, and it’s our job to get to them. I didn’t realize how hard it was to learn those routes as far as different hitters and what the pitcher is doing. So it’s a lot to take account for. It’s not just running to catch the ball.

“I think my instincts are starting to get a little better. Or maybe not better, but just more intuitive to the outfield, not the infield. I feel like now, making a couple of catches today, it’s kind of just natural.”

Said Farrell, “He’s a good athlete and he asks a lot of great questions. The aptitude is clearly there. In time, he’s going to be a very good center fielder.”

Betts has made it look pretty easy. Athleticism helps. But so does a calm, confident demeanor.

Asked where he gets that, Betts said, “I have no idea. Maybe just after my mom and dad. They don’t really stress a whole lot. If I don’t see anybody else stressing, I don’t see why I would. That’s kind of how I look at it. Everybody is in the clubhouse just relaxing and go out playing. So there’s no point in me stressing out. Just go out and play the game.”

Takeaways from the Fort: Pace-of-play rules

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
5:48
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort on Day 9 of Red Sox camp:
  • Peter Woodfork, the senior vice president for baseball operations, and umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford met with Red Sox manager John Farrell and his staff Saturday morning regarding the pace-of-play rules that will be implemented this season. Farrell said he will discuss the changes with the players in a subsequent meeting, presumably before the start of Grapefruit League play Thursday against the Minnesota Twins.

    There will be a clock in place starting with Tuesday’s college doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College, Farrell said, to monitor the time between innings and how long it takes a reliever to be ready to enter a game.

    For each half-inning break, teams will have either 2, minutes 25 seconds (for local telecasts) or 2 minutes, 45 seconds (national telecasts) from the time the commercial break begins until the first pitch should be thrown to the next batter, who should be in the batter's box with no fewer than 20 seconds remaining on that timer.

    The clock will also be used to regulate the amount of time it takes a reliever to enter a game, Farrell said.

    “When a reliever comes out of the bullpen, as soon as he touches the warning track, that’s when the 2:25 clock starts," Farrell said. “Basically, it’s just standardizing the amount of time allowed."

    The timers are to be placed on or near the scoreboard and another on the facade behind home plate near the press box.

    Farrell said Woodfork, a native of Lynn., Mass., who once worked for Theo Epstein and the Sox baseball operations staff before going to the Arizona Diamondbacks and then MLB, and Reliford also discussed the rule mandating a batter keep at least one foot in the batter’s box.

    “The best way to talk about the batter’s box rule is to boil it down," Farrell said. “Hitters are being asked to stay in the box with at least one foot in the box on pitches that are taken, a ball or strike. If there’s a swing, a passed ball, if there’s a foul ball, then it’s as usual. It’s just to try to avoid added time when there’s a pitch clearly received."

    Other exceptions include a wild pitch, a brushback pitch, and time granted by an umpire. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has been among the most outspoken critics of the rule.

    “Again, there’s going to be some adjustments that go along with this," Farrell said. “Typically if a swing has been had, there will be some balance to regroup, so that’s only accepted. More than anything, just try to keep the flow of the game going. There will be some adjustment required on behalf of the hitter, how it affects his personal routine from pitch to pitch.

    “What they want to avoid is the guy walking around the catcher back to the batter’s box."

  • In light of new Twins manager Paul Molitor saying he plans to implement rules restricting use of cell phones, iPads and other social media devices close to game time, Farrell was asked about the Sox policy.

    “Prior to 6:30 (about 40 minutes before first pitch for a standard night game), everything gets shut off," Farrell said. “The only thing running at that time is the TV and leading up to [game] time it’s on the opposing pitcher that night.

    “It’s all part of an individual’s preparation leading up to game time. I think if you see the number of our guys that are in the [batting] cage or in our dugout long in advance of the first pitch thrown, that speaks pretty clearly to that."

  • Prompted by the huge disparity in Daniel Nava’s lefty-righty splits, the Sox have asked Nava to abandon switch-hitting and hit left-handed against left-handed pitching.

    “This conversation with Dan began late last season," Farrell said. “He’s a more productive hitter from the left side, [so he’ll] focus on one side of the plate. I think we’ll see some at-bats right-handed for him; just with early opportunities against left-handers he’ll hit left-handed."

    Nava batted just .159 (10 for 63) with two extra-base hits against left-handers last season, with a .399 on-base plus slugging percentage, 370 percentage points below the .769 OPS he had batting lefty against right-handers. His best season batting right-handed came in 2013, but his .647 OPS was far below the .894 OPS he had batting left-handed.

  • While Farrell and his staff were meeting with Woodfork and Reliford, Sox players were listening to a presentation of domestic violence awareness, mandated in the big leagues for the first time this year.

  • Coolest name to take part in the Red Sox charity golf tournament Friday: Olympian Bob Beamon, the long jumper who broke the existing world record by nearly two feet in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Beamon, 68, has had a distinguished career as a businessman, educator, sportsman and public speaker and has lived in South Florida for years.

Morning report from the Fort

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
10:51
AM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from an overcast Fort, where it may rain later but is unlikely to impact either the Red Sox workout Saturday or the open house the team is holding at JetBlue Park, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s event is scheduled to include a yard sale featuring Red Sox memorabilia. Parking is complimentary. Proceeds will be donated to the Red Sox Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization and the official team charity of the Sox.

Fantasy Now: Hanley Ramirez

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
5:05
PM ET


video

Now that Fenway Park is home, is Hanley Ramirez a must-own player for 2015?

Leadoff spot a question mark at this point

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
4:22
PM ET
FORT MYERS -- Who will bat leadoff for the Red Sox in 2015?

SportsNation

Who should hit leadoff for the Red Sox this season?

  •  
    48%
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    18%
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    12%
  •  
    7%
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    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 22,811)

Manager John Farrell said Shane Victorino was a candidate to bat first. Seven different players started games in the leadoff position for the Sox last season, led by Brock Holt, with 93 starts. Three other players had 10 more starts at leadoff: Dustin Pedroia 26, Mookie Betts 22, and Grady Sizemore 10.

With Holt out for the last month of the season with concussive symptoms, Betts’ last 20 starts came in the leadoff spot. He posted a .308/.393/.423/.816 slash line in that span, but so far is not assured of a regular job this season. Farrell declared Victorino [if healthy] the starter in right field, and Betts is competing with Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. for the center-field job, with Castillo the apparent favorite.

“Vic is a candidate, but it will be dependent on the opposing pitcher on a given day,’’ Farrell said. “Whether or not Rusney is a guy who evolves into that in time I would say there are other guys ahead of him right now.

“Still, it’s not going to solely be dependent on speed. On-base [capability] is the primary driver.’’

Takeaways from the Fort: Baserunning in focus

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
4:19
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from Day 8 of Red Sox camp at the Fort:
  • The Sox worked on situational base-running drills Friday morning, a spirited exercise conducted by third-base coach Brian Butterfield in which he would bark out a situation – “one out, need to score from first” -- and the base-runners would react to wherever minor-league coach Chad Epperson would hit the ball. Besides seeing Dustin Pedroia running like it was a game in September, the drill had its share of humor: watching guys like David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval and Xander Bogaerts when they were the base-runners going to first base, seeing the ball caught, and reacting as if they were the ones who had made an out. Ortiz, in particular, gave the crowd a laugh when he raised his arms as if the ball was leaving the park, then shouting, “Damn” when it was caught.

    Given the day’s emphasis on base-running, Farrell was asked about the team’s approach to the stolen base this season. Last year, with Jacoby Ellsbury departing as a free agent and Shane Victorino hurt before the opener, the Sox were dreadful in the first half of the season, converting just 60 percent of their stolen-base attempts (30 of 50), the worst success rate in the big leagues. But with Brock Holt playing regularly, Mookie Betts joining the big club and Yoenis Cespedes acquired by trade, the Sox were an outstanding base-stealing team in the second half, stealing safely in 33 of 38 attempts, an 86.8 percent success rate.

    “We would expect that to carry over,’’ Farrell said, “with Mookie, with Brock being back active. Hanley [Ramirez], in his own right, the body type might not suggest a base-stealer but you’re looking at a guy with 13-to-17 stolen base capability. An overall part of our approach is taking advantage of situations and trying to create as much of a dynamic offense as possible.’’

    Ramirez, 31, stole 51 bases in each of his first two seasons in the big leagues. He has a total of 45 stolen bases in his last three seasons combined. He missed 28 games with a strained hamstring in 2013. “If we need a bag to win a game, I [will run],’’ he said Friday.

    Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have Ramirez stealing as many bases (18) as hitting home runs (18) for the Sox this season.

    Told that his strong-safety build might lead some to think he was unlikely to run, he said: “That’s good they feel like that.’’

    And what about David Ortiz? “He’ll get five,’’ Ramirez said.

    Ortiz’s career high is four stolen bases, set in 2013. Overall with the Red Sox, he has 11 steals in 17 attempts, a success rate of 64.7 percent.
  • As of Friday afternoon, the Red Sox had no plans to announce the official signing of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The 19-year-old switch-hitter completed his physical on Thursday in Boston.

    “Boston will tell me when the signing will take place,’’ David Hastings, the Florida CPA who is representing Moncada, said Friday. “They have to wait for all test results to come back.’’

    Moncada is expected to report to minor-league camp on Monday.
  • Outfielder Bryce Brentz, who had missed the last couple of days with knee soreness, took part Friday on a limited basis and is expected to ramp up activity Saturday.
  • Former Sox pitcher [and Fort Myers resident] Derek Lowe was a visitor to camp Friday. Launching a comeback? “Yeah, as a backup of a backup of a backup,’’ said Lowe, whose big-league career ended in 2013 when he was released by Texas, the last of seven teams he pitched for over a 17-year career, 8 of which were spent with the Sox.
  • The Sox day was shortened because of their annual charity golf event.
  • Peter Woodfork from the commissioner’s office is expected in camp Saturday to brief club officials on pace-of-play rules. Joe Torre was scheduled to be here, but Farrell said he is dealing with a personal issue and is not expected.

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