Red Sox in No Hurry to Rush Blake Swihart

blake swihart

Despite projected starting catcher Christian Vazquez beginning the season on the 60-day disabled list, the Red Sox are in no hurry to rush Blake Swihart’s progression to the majors.

Swihart, who will turn 23-years-old in April, is considered the top catching prospect in baseball, and is currently listed as the Red Sox number one prospect Blake Swihartaccording to SoxProspects.com. In 13 Grapefruit League games, Swihart is hitting .333/.375/.533 with a double, triple, home run and eight runs batted in.

“The view is that with a young player like Blake or other guys, we prefer to get them on a little bit of a roll at the minor league level before they come to us,” Farrell shared with NESN.com on Monday morning. “There’s also the need to continue to refine the receiving side of things. He’s gotten quite a bit of opportunity here in camp. He’s shown well I think. But just in the big picture, I think we can probably all benefit by playing every day and continuing to work on the developmental areas that are there.”

The Red Sox will presumably look to Ryan Hanigan, whom they acquired from the San Diego Padres in December in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

So far this spring, Hanigan is hitting .263/.353./.341 in nine games. For his career, the 30-year old veteran has hit .256/.353/.341 with 25 home runs and 172 runs batted in over eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Red Sox didn’t waste much time adding another catcher to bolster their depth at the position, acquiring catcher Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals on Monday in exchange for cash considerations.

“This is a guy who, given Christian’s situation, we felt like we needed to build some depth at the position—a guy that’s available because of being out of options and someone we’ve always graded fairly high on the receiving end of the position,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told ESPN Boston.

Justin Masterson Progressing Well as Opening Day Nears

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson is hoping for a bounce back season with the Red Sox, after going 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA for the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.

Although he has been shaky at times, Masterson has looked good overall this spring, going 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA and .250 opponent batting average in 18 innings over five games.

The 30-year old Kingston, Jamaica native delivered what was arguably his best outing of the spring so far on Monday, pitching 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one Justin Mastersonunearned run.

According to Masterson, part of his effectiveness is due to having a clean bill of health.

“It was a combination of feeling good and feeling strong and, for the most part, hitting my spots,” Masterson told MLB.com. “It is definitely moving in the right direction. I was able to make a few adjustments.”

“I feel great. At this time last year, if we were going into the fourth or fifth inning, I’d be giving up at least a couple of homers out there,” Masterson continued. “The first couple would be good, and after that, not so much.”

Boston’s newly stacked offense has also seemed to have an effect on Masterson’s level of comfort while on the mound.

“What I’m really excited about is, you’re going to have a different guy who I feel is just going to go on hot streaks for a while. You’ll have a week of this guy, a week of that guy and when they all come together, I’m going to sit there and just watch. Put my feet back and say, ‘This is awesome’,” shared Masterson in the same  interview.

The Red Sox signed Masterson in December to a one-year, $9.5 million contract, returning him to the team that originally drafted him in 2006. With many questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, the Red Sox should have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the return of his health.

Rusney Castillo Contributes Big in Sox 3-2 Extra Innings Victory

rusney castillo

After replacing Shane Victorino in right field to start the seventh inning in Sunday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park, Rusney Castillo furthered his argument as to why he should be a starting outfielder come Opening Day.

With one out in the top of the 10th inning, he made a brilliant diving catch in foul territory, then came up firing to catch the runner trying to score and end the frame.Rusney Castillo

“It turned out to be a good play,” Castillo stated in an interview with Ian Browne of MLB.com. “I’m always kind of anticipating that kind of thing to happen. When you have a man on third in a big situation, you hope you can make a play like that and execute it. Fortunately it went our way.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell seemed equally impressed by Castillo’s skill in right field.

“I don’t know that you can make a play better than the one he made — diving play in foul territory, he gets up, sets his feet, and then he throws a 150-foot strike,” Farrell told Browne. “A dynamic player, when you consider the skill set that he has. If there was any question on whether he could play right field, he’s certainly answering those for us in camp here.”

With JetBlue Park sharing the same right-field dimensions as Fenway, the 27-year old Cuba defector is showing he is having no problem transitioning from center field, where he has spent most of his playing time since coming to America, to a right field known for being difficult to defend.

Castillo then lead off the bottom of the 10th inning with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball, then tagged up and went to third on a fly ball from Allen Craig. Shortstop Deven Marrero drilled a two-out walk-off single off the Green Monster, driving in Castillo for the winning run.

Mookie Betts Continues to Impress with Inside-the-Park Home Run

mookie betts

Another day at the ballpark, another headline for Mookie Betts.

Betts continued his remarkable Spring Training run on last Sunday afternoon (March 22nd) against the Philadelphia Phillies at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FL. The 22-year old infielder-turned-outfielder put up yet another multi-hit performance, going 2 for 2 with a RBI.

In 11 Grapefruit League games, Betts is hitting .471/.471/.853 good for an astounding 1.324 OPS, with nine extra-base hits and two RBIs.Mookie Betts

One of his more memorable Spring Training moments came Sunday afternoon when Betts launched a ball to deep center field, and was able to come all the way around the bases on an inside-the-park home run as Phillies’ center fielder Odubel Herrera struggled to locate the ball after attempting to catch it over his shoulder.

“I just thought it was going to be a double,” Betts shared with BostonGlobe.com. “When I was getting close to second I figured I might as well go three. When I was going three, Butter had the decision to send me home. I kind of went with the flow.”

With a good mix of power and speed, Red Sox’ manager John Farrell sounds more than confident having Betts hitting lead off come Opening Day.

“He’s obviously driving the ball consistently. He gives you a threat even as the game begins,” Farrell told the Globe. “He’s an exciting player. He’s always on time hitting-wise. He’s equipped to hit different types or pitches from righthanders and lefthanders.”

Betts is even receiving praise from some of his veteran teammates, such as left fielder Hanley Ramirez.

“He’s been doing well with the communication, moving me around. I like that, a young guy taking charge,” he told BostonGlobe.com

“He reminds me of myself in [2006] in Miami,” Ramirez told NJ.com.

With the spring performance he has put up so far, along with the high praise from his coaches and teammates alike, 2015 is shaping up to be a break out campaign for the Nashville, TN native, Mookie Betts.

Mookie Betts’ Attitude As Good As His Play

mookie betts

As each Spring Training game passes, Mookie Betts is leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind that he should be the Red Sox’ starting center fielder come April 6th.

Betts contributed another impressive performance on Monday, going 2-3 with a double, triple, and a run scored against the New York Mets at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FLMookie Betts. In seven Spring Training games thus far, Betts is hitting an astounding .435/.435/.739, good for a 1.174 OPS.

Equally as impressive as his on-the-field performance, has been his attitude and the way he conducts himself off of it.

Betts began last season on a hot streak as the Portland Sea Dogs’ second baseman, but with the Red Sox middle infield seemingly full for years to come, the Red Sox had Betts begin to transition to center field, where they could take advantage of his immense talent.

“It’s had its ups and downs,” Betts said in an interview with Ron Borges of BostonHerald.com. “It definitely hasn’t been as easy as I thought. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover and you have to move around with each hitter and with different counts. There’s so much involved getting ready for each pitch.”

“When the first fly came out it was like ‘Oh bleep.’ That’s pretty much exactly how I felt. But after I got the first couple under my belt I felt comfortable.”

Although the transition has not come without its difficulties, Betts seems willing to do whatever it takes to earn a spot on the big league roster.

“The only thing I can do now is fulfill what they need,” Betts shared with Borges. “I 100 percent look at it like they think I’m a good enough athlete to do it, not like they don’t think I can play the infield. Plus, we got a guy at second base who’s pretty good so I couldn’t play there.”

“My dream wasn’t to play second base. The dream is to make it to the big leagues. I can’t say it didn’t happen as I wanted because I’m in the big leagues.”

With an incredible amount of talent and potential on-the-field, and the maturity and wisdom that makes him seem wise beyond his years, Mookie Betts seems ready to take the MLB by storm. If his spring is any indication of what’s to come for the 22-year old Nashville, TN native, we might be seeing a perennial All-Star at Fenway Park for years to come.

Henry Owens Dazzles Over Two Innings in 5-1 Sox Victory Over Rays

HENRY OWENS

Henry Owens, Boston’s number one pitching prospect according to SoxProspects.com, raised his stock even further Tuesday afternoon with two brilliant innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers.

Owens entered the game in the 6th inning, and immediately struck out the first batter he faced in Corey Brown. He followed that up with back-to-back fly balls to left fielder Bryce Brentz to end the frame.Henry Owens

The tall 22-year old southpaw then retired Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee to begin the seventh, before setting Steven Souza Jr. down on strikes to finish his afternoon after two perfect innings.

The improvement over last spring training, Owens’ first with the major league club, is already evident to Sox’ manager John Farrell.

“[His] poise. Confidence,” Farrell said in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “His breaking ball to me this spring is a little tighter and a little more sharp than we saw a year ago. He’s starting to, I think, through physical maturity and gaining some weight and overall strength, develop a little better fastball velocity.”

The differential between his fastball and change up velocity has played a big part in Owen’s recent success.

“He flashed some good fastballs today,” Farrel told Browne. “His changeup is always going to be the signature pitch for him. The three pitches that he has have such definition that he can attack a guy multiple ways.”

Owens, who is listed at 6′ 7″, seems to possess all the physical tools one would want in a top of the rotation starter.

He is coming off a season in which he went 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts over 26 appearances (all starts) between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket. Owens also earned trips to both the mid-season and post-season All-Star games for the AA Eastern League, as well as winning their Pitcher of the Year award.

The Huntington Beach, CA native will have to prove himself against other top lefty pitching prospects Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez, but many within the Sox’ organization feel very highly about Owens, and believe he has the potential to be Boston’s ace of the future.