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Another key test aced by Bradley

Red Sox manager John Farrell didn’t hide the fact that he was giving prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. a key test on Sunday to make sure he’s ready for the challenge of being on the Opening Day roster. In Sunday’s road game against the Phillies, Bradley started in left field on a day the Red Sox were facing Cliff Lee, one of the toughest lefties in the Majors.

So what did Bradley do? In his first at-bat, he belted a three-run homer to left-center.

This as also Bradley’s first time starting in the same outfield as Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino. Bradley played two innings in left on Friday in Dunedin but this was his first start there since his freshman year of high school in 2005.

No decisions have been made, but the possibility seems to be growing by the day that Bradley will head North with the Red Sox and help fill the void left by David Ortiz Stephen Drew, who are all but certain to start the season on the disabled list.

“This is probably the best environment we could put him in on the road, away from our ballpark, going up against a very good pitcher. This will be a good day for him,” said Farrell.

Farrell can’t help but recall similarities to another spring he saw a top prospect win a job out of camp, helped by an injury to a key player. When Farrell was the Indians’ farm director in 2005, Grady Sizemore was optioned down to the Minors during Spring Training. However, Juan Gonzalez suffered in injury later in camp, and Sizemore broke camp with the Indians and became a star for many years, before injuries derailed him.

What does Farrell remember about Sizemore in the spring of 2005?

“That he was ready. As is the case many times, it’s out of the players’ control. But an injury opened up a spot for him.”

And that could again be happening in 2013.

An Opening Day type of lineup

The Red Sox play the Phillies under the lights tonight in Fort Myers, and it’s a pretty good pitching matchup. John Lackey for the Sox, and Cole Hamels for Philly.

Look at the lineup manager John Farrell has posted for today, and it could be the same one you see on April 1 in New York.

Ellsbury CF

Victorino RF

Pedroia 2B

Napoli 1B

Middlebrooks 3B

Gomes LF

Saltalamacchia C

Nava DH

Iglesias SS

 

Brian Roberts to Stephen Drew: ‘Make sure that you’re right’

Stephen Drew is on his way to visit the head of the University of Pittsburgh concussion program, Micky Collins, on Tuesday. Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who’s been hampered by a pair of concussions of his own, had some advice for the Red Sox shortstop.

“I’d say he’s going to see a great guy, I think that it’s a scary situation,” Roberts said. “And I would tell him to trust his instincts, to trust what he’s feeling. And know that there is an end in sight. But the in the midst of it it’s a really tough place to be.

“I think the hardest part of that injury is that people don’t have any idea what’s going on because they can’t see it.”

Told Drew’s concussion was suffered on a pitch that didn’t make the most direct impact possible with his helmet, Roberts said his second concussion was similar because he did not directly hit his head when he dove: “Oh I know, I got the same thing.”

“I hit myself in the head obviously and my second one I dove headfirst in Boston, I didn’t hit my head on the ground. But your brain it basically just sits in there. And all that needs to be done is juggled a little bit. Doesn’t have to be a helmet to helmet collision in football for it to happen.”

“I hurt for him, I feel for him because I know what it’s like. But I think the thing you got to realize you got to be careful it’s the rest of your life, it’s your brain, make sure that you’re right before you do anything. I think the biggest thing is he sees so many cases, he’s done a lot of research. He knows that everyone is different but they also have a way of understanding what part of the brain has been affected, and how to help rehab that.”

Roberts has only the highest praise for Collins and what Drew is about to go through in Pittsburgh.

“They do a battery of testing,” Roberts said. “They do the obviously one which is the ImPACT test on the computer, but then there’s a whole bunch of other things that they do there at the facility that most people don’t see or don’t know. A bunch of other testing to find out, like I said, what area of the brain has been affected and what needs to be looked at. What needs to be rehabbed.

“There’s a little bit of everything, they’ll do some ocular testing, some vision testing. So there’s numerous areas of the brain that can be affected.”

– Evan Drellich

Aceves throws inning, talks philosophy

Fourteen pitches, seven strikes and one inning thrown in a Double-A game Wednesday led Alfredo Aceves to some pitching ruminations.

There’s long been a belief in baseball that you can’t try to throw hard, that if you’re tense and trying to throw a ball 180 mph, you won’t even hit 90 mph. That may not be a revelation for anyone in the game or even for Aceves himself, but the Red Sox right-hander gave credit to that philosophy for his elevated velocity in 2012.

Aceves averaged 94.7 mph on his fastball last season, a jump from 93.4 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.

“It was more maña than fuerza when I get 98,” Aceves said after the backfield outing at Fenway South. “My mind tell me to relax my body and let my body do it. … Maña es mejor que fuerza.”

The rest of the Major League Red Sox were off on Wednesday.

Before Wednesday, Aceves had last pitched six days ago, going three innings for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He’s set to start Saturday on the road against the Rays, and he feels the Classic hasn’t set back his regular-season preparation.

“The only thing is we travelled four hours and a half to Phoenix,” Aceves said. “Everybody is doing the little things that we have to do to maintain ourselves.”

– Evan Drellich

Ortiz: ‘It’s not a good feeling’

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is not putting on a happy face. Being shut down from baseball activities with three weeks before Opening Day is not his idea of a good time.

But the DH knows that his long-term outlook for 2013 is more important than a now unrealistic goal of trying to be ready for the first game.

“I’m going to be back as soon as I’m good to go,” Ortiz said. “Right now,  I’m just going to try to work on getting the inflammation out of there and it will take a little bit of time.”

Everyone wants to play on Opening Day, but that’s not happening for Number 34. Not this year.

“Of course. Everybody wants to be there for Opening Day, but it is what it is,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz wasn’t surprised that the MRI revealed inflammation in his heels, instead of the Achilles tendon he injured last July.  “I know it wasn’t the Achilles. We have an MRI in December and my Achilles looked pretty good. We have an MRI right now and my Achilles is not the issue. It’s just inflammation right behind it. We’re going to work on that now,” said Ortiz.

However, Ortiz did admit there is some peace of mind to getting the reading from the MRI. “Yeah, I knew it was something, it was not normal. I was getting pain four or five hours after I was finished with my workout and I know something wasn’t right. We had that communication between me and the doctors, the trainers. They agree with getting an MRI just to see what was going on. It’s not anything crazy, thanks God. But it’s going to take a couple of weeks to get fixed.”

Ortiz did not get a shot, but he is taking anti-inflammatories. “Yeah, we started that up now after we saw the MRI, they started giving me some anti-inflammatories.”

At a time of spring when the other players are starting to ramp up for Opening Day, Ortiz will work under a modified time-table.  “Yeah, it’s not a good feeling. I’ve been working really hard this offseason just to make sure I’m good to go for the season. It’s happened. It’s not me being me. I know you guys have noticed that. Like I said, it is what it is and things happen for a reason, right? The one thing that we’re really working on is that when I’m back, I’m back. It’s not just coming back for a couple of weeks and then going back and doing the same thing. They’re trying to fix the whole thing. That way when I get back in the lineup, it’s going to be there, and be there for the season.”

This injury for Ortiz has lingered in some form or fashion since July 16, 2012.  “Well, we’re humans. Nobody wants to be injured. Me, I was going 120 percent this offseason working with this injury and the good news is it had nothing to do with my Achilles like it used to. That made me happy at least, knowing that my Achilles is doing fine.”

But perhaps the inflammation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

“It’s a process where when you’re going at it, you pretty much use everything. It’s not like you can get picky with the things you want to do. Not being formally doing things for like six, seven months, it’s like starting all over. It happens.

Ortiz is clearly dejected that he won’t start the season on time.

“Well, Opening Day was my goal. You guys heard me talking about it when I first got here. I was feeling good and pushing things the way I was being told. Right now, Opening Day seems like it’s not the case. The case is get me healthy for five or five and a half good months. That’s what we’re looking for now.”

If the Red Sox are to be the team they want to be this season, Ortiz’s injury — particularly if it’s short term — shouldn’t derail them too much.

“We have a good team,” Ortiz said. “We have good players. We’ve got some good players. I’ve been talking to a lot of them, and the one thing I keep on telling them is just try to do what you do at your best. Don’t try to do more than that. You’re going to bump into some tough times. Just learn how to deal with it, and everything will be taken care of.”

Bradley still ‘likely’ to open season in Minors

Jackie Bradley, Jr. has arguably been the best story in camp, making things happen whenever he takes the field. However, barring an injury to one of Boston’s main outfielders, Bradley is all but certain to open the season in the Minors.

“Likely,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell . “But you never want to put a limit on anyone, either. He’s making the best of the opportunity, and he’s making a very strong impression.”

Bradley, who is not in tonight’s starting lineup against Puerto Rico, is hitting .471 in 17 at-bats.

In other news, David Ortiz ran the bases today, marking the first time he’s done it in consecutive days. He is planning on running again tomorrow. If all goes well, Ortiz could be in Boston’s lineup by some point this weekend.

Daniel Bard, fresh off an encouraging inning in a simulated game on Monday, is scheduled to pitch in a game in Thursday, which would mark his first Grapefruit League appearance in 10 days.

 

Middlebrooks, Red Sox dodge a scare

The Red Sox got the best news possible on Thursday morning. Will Middlebrooks was absolutely fine, a day after exiting the game with discomfort in his surgically repaired right wrist. In fact, Middlebooks could well be in the starting lineup for Friday night’s home game against the Cardinals.

“His exam this morning was benign,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He didn’t feel any discomfort when he was put through a battery of tests and he’s actually been cleared for all baseball activities, but I’m sure he’s going to take the day to just let it rest. But given the way he came out after the swing, it was obviously very good news this morning.”

When will he play? “He’ll be day to day, until he takes BP, which should be tomorrow,” Farrell said. “Our plan right now is that he would be able to go tomorrow, but we’ll just be sure he comes through BP without any issue.”

Third base is one position the Red Sox don’t have much depth at. “Well at the time of the swing, it wasn’t real encouraging. Given what he came through with the fracture a year ago, I can understand that he was a little tentative and probably a little scared,” Farrell said. “Fortunately this morning things checked out OK.”

Game 1 of the Grapefruit League

The Red Sox play their first game against Major League competition today, as the Rays roll into town for a 1:35 p.m. game here at JetBlue Park

Here is the starting lineup.

Ellsbury CF

Pedroia 2B

Victorino RF

Saltalamacchia C

Gomes LF

Drew SS

Middlebrooks 3B

Overbay 1B

Sweeney DH

Lackey — first start since September 25, 2011.

The Sox will spend the next two days on the road, going to Jupiter on Sunday to face the Cardinals, and on Monday, split-squadders at Port Charlotte vs. the Rays, and in Dunedin against the Jays. The Dunedin game will be a knuckleball fest, as Steven Wright faces R.A. Dickey with Tim Wakefield on hand to watch.

Ryan Dempster will take his first start for the Red Sox on Tuesday, when the Cardinals come to town.

Red Sox of 2013 on the field for the first time

It wasn’t even a Grapefruit League game, but there the Red Sox of 2013 were, on the field for the first time against an opponent.

Joel Hanrahan, the new closer, made his first pitches in a Boston uniform, starting by giving up a single on a ball Jonny Gomes probably could have caught. The righty retired the next two batters, than hit a batter and punched out Will Dougherty to end his 17-pitch inning.

Daniel Bard — his struggles last season all too well-documented — also started by giving up a hit. But the righty struck out the next three, getting some weak waves from the Huskies.

The offensive highlight in the first inning was an RBI double to the opposite field in left by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Pedro unplugged as he returns to work

There was a buzz in the air, as Pedro Martinez put on Red Sox uniform pants and warmup jacket for the first time since 2004, when he dominated the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series.

Martinez is now a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and he will spend time in camp working with pitchers — particularly Felix Doubront and Rubby De La Rosa.

During a 24-minute session with the media, Martinez was expansive and entertaining.

Does Martinez want to pitch again? “Oh no, not at all. Not to play. Coming back to see the Sox in first place, maybe. No, no, no, no chance. I just don’t think so. I did what I was supposed to do out there.”

What will he add? “I hope to add some knowledge. Any help I can for the staff in any aspect. It could be mechanically. It could be on the field, off the field, it could be mentally, which I know a lot about going through struggles –what we go through in the middle of a season, especially after the first half. I can relate to a lot of them and actually get them going and they can come in and ask questions and I’ll be more than willing to answer.”

Talked to Daniel Bard. What was that all about? “I actually was talking about him feeling comfortable in some of the things that he was doing. He explained to me some of the things that he does where he feels more comfortable. I suggested a couple of things, simple things, like getting into different habits of doing things so he can actually feel comfortable on the mound and off the mound and also to make adjustments.”

Putting the Red Sox uniform on for the first time since 2004: “You know what, it’s weird, but it feels like the first day to me. I get so excited just to be part of this team and be part of the tradition that we have here. To me, it was just like the first day. I was actually a little bit funny about putting a pair of [Red Sox] pants on again. Shorts are different. And regular pants like a player. Same size, same everything, even though I’m a little heavier.”

Less control than when he was a player: “You know what, when they’re in the field, I think they have ways to go around it, but when you’re not, it’s an empty feeling that you get inside of you. There’s nothing you can do from the front of your TV. Sometimes the few games that I stopped to watch at Fenway, it was painful to see the chemistry wasn’t there, the team wasn’t doing what they were supposed to. I was trying to be optimistic about the team playing together all year. That never happened. I know that was one of the biggest reasons why the team didn’t perform to the level that everybody expected.”

Could you have ever imagined doing this years back? “No, I never thought about it but I knew I wanted to be in the field somehow, not all the time. That’s why I automatically erased probably becoming a pitching coach and probably a manager. I don’t really see myself doing 162 games anymore. I did it for my whole career and if I take part in the field, it’s going to be this way.”

Why was now the time to start working again? “To be honest, I can’t sit still for so long. I have to work. I grew up working. Since I was 14, and I was dropped off at the academy by Ramon, which was a really good choice, after that, I just went on to play and play and play and I was never home. Even though my family needs me and I need my family now, I still need some time to actually go away, actually have a schedule, have something to do and at the same time, be where I like to be, which is in the baseball field, the baseball diamond, exchanging with guys  that I feel are like my family.”

What kind of schedule will you have? “You  know, I became really close to Benny and I offered him my help in any sense I could help. I’m open to help him out. I just won’t compromise  special times with my family. I won’t compromise things that are important to me in my life, in my independent life. As far as anything else, I’m open to do it.”

Working with Felix Doubront, who some say is out of shape this spring: “Well he’s so young and so full of talent that sometimes you take for granted the opportunity we’re given. But the same way it comes, the same way it could go. All it takes is a bad injury and you’re out of baseball. The only thing that prevents injuries is hard work. I believe he just doesn’t know. He hasn’t been taught that he’s going to be held accountable for his performance out there and the way he looks. That this is really a serious business. I think it takes a little while to get him mentally prepared to understand the responsibility that he has on top of his shoulder with the whole Boston community and the team and he’s so young. Nowadays these pitchers come up so young, so talented that they don’t realize how much they’re going to be counted on. And I think Doubront is a good example. I think he needs to know that it’s really important to this team, the organization, the community, to Boston, and that they’re counting on him to be one of the big names. But at the same time, he’s still a young kid trying to develop and he’s already in the big leagues trying to perform. You have to take that into consideration and be patient with him. At the same time, try to guide him through it. and I think I can be a good access to it to learn about some of the things that he has to do.”

Not pulling any punches with Doubront: “Baseball is not easy. It wasn’t easy for me. He has to expect it to be tough. One thing I’m going to be with him, just like I was always with you, I’m going to be straightforward an I’m going to say the way it is, point blank. If he wants to hear it or if he doesn’t, that’s OK. I want the best for him and I want the  best for the organization and I would love to help. I can’t handle the fact that I have all this knowledge and  not give it away. I would love to give it away and I hope he sees me as a good example of hard work and dedication and will to do things.”

On Doubront perhaps not being in great shape: “Being out of shape a little bit is normal, probably not as much as before. But being out of shape a little bit at spring training, this is the only place you can be a little bit out of shape. You’re here to get in shape. He has plenty of time to get in shape. I think he’s going to do it right. At the same time, you have to hold him accountable to go and do his work.”

Does this job feed your competitive juices? “It’s more difficult for me to be as competitive because I can’t pitch. I would love to brush someone back. Hey, hey, get off the plate, this is my area. Now I have to sit and watch and rely on someone to do it so I can get my giddyup.”

More on inside baseball: “You teach them when to do it and how to do it and how to do it properly and effectively. It’s all part of the game. You have to pitch inside, you have to brush them back. You have to make them feel uncomfortable all the time, and one of the things that makes you feel uncomfortable is that pitch inside close to you. At 99 from Rubby De La Rosa or Doubront or Lester can get anybody uncomfortable. I will preach it: They need to pitch inside if they want to have success.”

The desire: “If you have all of the ingredients that lead you to it. You have to want it. You have to be crazy enough to do it. You have to be willing to do it. And you have to be willing to learn how to do it. You put all those ingredients together, and you have someone who can compete just as well as I used to.”

Now that you’re not pitching anymore, can you say how many of your hit batsmen were on purpose? “Probably 90 percent of them, but it was all in retaliation for my teammates.”

Did you drill Karim Garcia on purpose?  “Not on purpose. It didn’t even hit him. It hit the bat. Not on purpose. Who is Karim Garcia? He just hit a great homer for Mexico in the last Caribbean Series. Gerald Williams, no. Karim Garcia, no. Some others, I don’t know. There were some in retaliation to show them that there were things I wouldn’t allow them to do. You play around it. They understand it, too. They know they’re going to get hit for something that happened. If you disrespect a player or disrespect me, I’m probably going to take a chance, somewhere where you didn’t expect it or didn’t think I would do it, and there you have it. If you do it professionally and not hurting anybody. I don’t remember hitting anybody with a fastball to the head.”

Jorge Posada thought you were saying you wanted to hit him in the head in ’03. Did you ever get a chance to tell him that you were really saying, “I’ll remember that.”.  “No. No. It doesn’t matter. Posada is a human being. He’s got his family. He doesn’t need me in his life, I don’t need him. I wish him well with his family. There are some things that happen in the baseball field.”

Can you be a liason? “Hopefully we’ll be supportive to some of the players that don’t feel like they can talk to management. There are certain areas where a player doesn’t feel confident enough to express himself and have fun. I was crazy fun in the clubhouse, but the time to play was totally different. I knew I had something to do. There wasn’t anybody more serious on the day I pitched. But if I wasn’t pitching, I was so crazy fun, and those guys are going to get to know that. Even though I’m not playing, I’m going to keep it loose. I’m going to be loud. And you can do those things, but you have to understand that the time to work is the time to work and make a difference between work and loose time. When you have to express something, do it the right way. Hopefully I will be one of the bridges that reaches between the areas they weren’t able to reach the last few years.”

How do you relate to players when you probably had a lot more talent? “This may sound weird, but I never considered myself a great player. I made myself, along with my teammates, a better player than I was. I never thought I was a superstar. I worked like I was a hungry man going for his first game in the big leagues. I know that’s not going to be something you want to teach Doubront or any of those kids coming up, because they are rich in talent. All they have to do is try to stay physically healthy, here’s what they have and suck in a lot of the knowledge that everyone is trying to give them.”

How you put it all together: “I will say I had to learn a lot of little pieces together to become the person I was, the pitcher I was. I have a lot of me with Maddux, with Pettitte, with Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Bret Saberhagen believe it or not was someone I really analyzed a lot, Tom Glavine. I had a lot of little things I learned from everybody. I tried to pack them all together and use them, and that’s how I became who i was in baseball, but I never considered myself a superstar or a superhuman talent. I thought there was a lot of work for me to do each day to be consistent and have success.”

Fans serenading you with love during the workout today: “That’s because I’m probably one more fan out there in the parade. Since I left Boston everything was a parade, and every time I came back it was a parade. People got used to keeping the same attitude. I think I’m the same way. I was really happy that they could feel, in a baseball field, feel for me what they felt for me in the field when I was playing. They were like, ‘Hey, Pedro!’ Some of them even asked if I was going to come back and pitch. I said, ‘No, not a chance.'”

Will you be a Red Sox lifer like Luis Tiant? “Probably. Probably around, yeah, when I’m an old goat running around. I probably won’t have the goatee, but I’ll be around hopefully like Jim Rice and Tiant, without the goatee. Johnny Pesky. Johnny Pesky. I remember him hitting me some fungos in my first year here. Then I saw him in his last days. I was really proud to have the opportunity to see Johnny Pesky. I’m hoping to become someone like that.”

Did you get over bitterness about the Red Sox not re-signing you? “I never held it against them. You have to understand, baseball has a dark side and it’s the negotiations. When you’re exposed to arbitration cases, you realize that there is a business part of baseball that forces you to look for negatives about the player, and the player tries to prove to the team that you’re worth whatever you’re asking, that money makes it all difficult. All that love for one day goes away. Then once we settle and reach an agreement, it’s all love again. It’s a lot like two boxers. You shake hands before and you shake hands after. That’s it. It’s boxing. I never held it against Boston, the fact that they didn’t sign me. They thought I wasn’t worth what I was asking, and I thought I was worth what I was asking. That was it. But no grudges, no grudges. Even though I was honest — probably too honest.”

You miss the glory days? “I miss [Johnny Damon], I miss Millar, I miss everybody. I miss every player I played with with the Red Sox. There’s nothing I can think of from ’04 and the previous teams I played, that I don’t miss. I was even telling [equipment manager] Joe Cochran, I was telling Joe I even miss seeing the flowers in the spring, when they first came out, the first part of the season where the leaves are starting to come out and the flowers are starting to come out, I miss that time when it’s starting to get warm and in the summer there’s all the flowers and Boston is green and beautiful. I miss all that over the last few years, even though I did visit — but not like I used to. Now I’m going to get to see it more often.”

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