FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two Red Sox pitchers, lefthanders Craig Breslow and Felix Doubront, will be held back during the early part of spring training because of shoulder soreness.
“Not because of injury situations. Just maybe some discomfort and overall strength that they felt in their long-toss program,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “More precautionary than anything.
“When they got aggressive in their long-toss program there was some sensation in there, a little bit of irritation. Want to be clear that it’s not an injury situation.”
Because of the World Baseball Classic, teams are starting spring training early. That allows the Red Sox to be cautious.
For the 25-year-old Doubront, however, it’s a red flag given that he threw 161 innings last season, by far the most of his career. The Red Sox shut down a tiring Doubront in August with what they said was a knee contusion. He returned and pitched well.
Farrell said base running would be a point of emphasis in spring training.
“From the new terminology that will be implemented to what we expect, there will probably be a greater emphasis on that than maybe what they’ve been exposed to in the past,” Farrell said.
Farrell said the intent is to help the players become more aggressive and productive running the bases rather than stealing more bases.
“Outlining what we would look to exploit in certain situations. If there’s a matchup between a pitcher and catcher that we can exploit, what we’ll try and do is put pressure on the defense as far as our first-to-thirds,” Farrell said.
Toronto stole 123 bases last season under Farrell, fifth in the American League. The Red Sox stole 97 bases.
Farrell said having a new third base coach [Brian Butterfield] and a new first base coach [Arnie Beyeler] would require extra time spent on in-game communication.
Fun and games
Those who know Ryan Dempster well say the 35-year-old righthander is a funny guy. The new Sox starter showed a little of that when he spoke to reporters.
“I want a chance to face Will Middlebrooks again. He took me deep last year. I want a chance to face him again, maybe in [live] BP. I’ll throw one behind his ear or something,” Dempster said. “But I won’t hit him. He’s my teammate now.”
Dempster also offered an amusing scouting report on new closer Joel Hanrahan.
“He throws cheese and he’s got a nasty slider and a big, huge, bushy goatee that I think the hitters get intimidated by,” Dempster said. “I know from the other side, playing against him the last few years, when he’s coming in the game it’s pretty much lights out. That’s a great feeling to have as a team, as a pitcher, when you’re sitting there watching your closer come in and save the game for you. That’s a really, really nice feeling. The whole back end of our bullpen is pretty remarkable right now.”
Dempster expressed enthusiasm for starting the season and helping a new team.
“I like to provide consistency,” he said. “That’s something over the course of my career I take the biggest pride in. I try and take the ball every fifth day as long as I can and go out there and give my best effort and be prepared.”
Lots to like for him
Farrell was asked what he likes about this particular team.
“The roster is filled with talent,” he said. “Players that come in new, they come from winning teams, they come from playoff experience. I think we’ve got a balanced team. If you just looked at our lineup, there’s speed, there’s power, there’s left/right capability. I think our bullpen is a strength. We know that there’s talent in that rotation, and yet we have to get some guys on track, rebuild some confidence in certain areas.”
With new right fielder Shane Victorino expected to miss three weeks of camp while playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, Farrell said it would be a priority to get him on the field with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury as often as possible. “To me, that’s going to be critical,” Farrell said. “Their understanding of how much range each has and their communication with Shane moving to right field full time, that time that they do have in camp will be critical as far as the reps together.” . . . Farrell spent a good part of his day in individual meetings with the players. He got through everybody except Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Their interpreter is not due in camp until Tuesday. “My Japanese isn’t that good,” said Farrell, who in 2007 took some rudimentary Japanese classes to try to communicate better with Daisuke Matsuzaka . . . Is statistical analyst Bill James more involved in roster decisions? “It’s not so much that Bill goes out and makes recommendations,” owner John Henry said. “If you ask Bill a question, you get a detailed analysis that is extremely well done. It’s something that we’ve gotten away from to our detriment over the years.” . . . Farrell said one of his goals was to improve the tempo at which some of the starters work . . . Farrell was asked how much he is like his old friend Terry Francona. “God, I hope I’m not similar,” he said. “Except for the success that he enjoyed.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.