JUPITER, Fla. — One good thing about Red Sox manager John Farrell deciding to take the 2:45 p.m. trip to Dunedin Monday to face the Blue Jays — rather than the 45-minute ride to Rays camp in Port Charlotte — is that he can face the media regarding his sudden departure from Toronto now rather than when Boston plays at Toronto in the second series of the season.
Some Blue Jays fans believe Farrell pulled a fast one by trying to shoot his way out of Dodge to go to the Red Sox. Farrell insisted Sunday that’s the not the reason he chose the trip.
“You mean I couldn’t wait to get to Dunedin?” he quipped.
“I’m looking forward to seeing [Steven] Wright and [Allen] Webster,” Farrell said. “My focus is on our team and players. We still have decisions to be made.”
Farrell said Wright and Webster could be important depth starters for the Sox this season and he needs to take a close look. Of course, he dictates where they pitch, and he decided they should work against the Jays, who will start National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
Farrell didn’t exactly light the baseball world on fire in his two seasons managing the Jays (154-170). He was a pitching coach trying to get his feet wet as a manager. Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays had numerous injuries — three of his starting pitchers went down in a matter of two weeks last season. The heart and soul of his lineup, Jose Bautista, was lost to a serious wrist injury.
The end result in 2012 was 73 wins, four more than Bobby Valentine’s Red Sox (slightly better talent in September enabled the Jays to beat out the Sox for fourth in the AL East).
The Sox actually had made Farrell their target before Valentine after the 2011 season, but Farrell, who had been recognized as Terry Francona’s heir apparent, could not be pried away from the Jays.
The Jays were much more willing to let Farrell pursue his “dream job” after the 2012 season, but only if they got a 25-man roster player back. So starting shortstop Mike Aviles went to Toronto, which then hired John Gibbons for a second tenure as manager and went out and made the blockbuster deal of the offseason, landing pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle , infielders Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck.
The Jays were suddenly transformed into the AL East favorite. Because of The Trade, Farrell has escaped the full blow of the thunder associated with his departure. But when he shows up Monday he’s going to hear it, and it may not be pretty. At the Winter Meetings in December, the Toronto media came right at Farrell.
Farrell, however, remains grateful that the Jays gave him a chance to manage. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity, but that’s not swaying or influencing where I go,” he said. “It’s our players first.”
Rubby De La Rosa touched 100 miles per hour on the radar gun Sunday in the ninth inning of Boston’s 5-3 win over the Cardinals. The Sox are dying to see more. “Electric stuff,” Farrell said as he shook his head. De La Rosa is headed for Pawtucket, but for how long? The Sox project him as a starter, but there’s always the possibility he could be made a closer. But for now “it’s too early to think about those things,” Farrell said. “He’s fun to watch.” . . . Mike Napoli, recovering from hip issues, ran the bases at Fort Myers for the first time. Running at roughly half-speed, he went straight to first base twice, rounded the bag twice and then went from the plate to second base twice. “It wasn’t a full-go, but it felt good to just run and make the turns. It felt good just running,” Napoli said. “Just progress from there. I had a little conversation about it at the end, I want to get close to that full burst from first to third.” Strength and conditioning coach Pat Sandora and assistant athletic trainer Brad Pearson supervised the session. “I’m just going through the steps of what they want me to do,” Napoli said. “I’m fine with it, as long as I’m ready for Opening Day, which I should be easily.’’ Farrell projects Napoli getting into a real game later this week . . . Clay Buchholz (hamstring) will throw a simulated game Tuesday (35 pitches, two innings), throw a light side session Thursday, and be ready for a start Saturday. “Clay will get six appearances and be on track for the normal projection for that 95-pitch target we want to get to,” Farrell said . . . Felix Doubront, who showed up overweight but now appears a bit leaner, will throw live batting practice Monday and Wednesday, and if all goes well, Farrell projects him to start next Monday. Farrell said Craig Breslow, also slowed by a sore left arm, “is more symptom-free, but he has more strength gains to make before we implement a throwing program.”
Shift in thinking?
Farrell’s Blue Jays did a lot of shifting, and he plans to do some with Boston. “Yes we will shift, but to what extent, we’re going to get a better read,” he said. “We felt we had the ability to move [third baseman Brett] Lawrie around more freely. We’d like to put the third baseman on the [shortstop] hole side with lefthanded hitters.” Farrell said he has to gauge how effective Will Middlebrooks would be in that situation. Lawrie may have the best range of any third baseman in the league . . . Farrell said David Ortiz (Achilles’) is about a week behind Napoli as far as getting into a game. Ortiz will get swings in BP and if he needs more he can get some minor league game at-bats. Newly acquired Mike Carp will play in one of the games Monday, as competition with Lyle Overbay and Daniel Nava for the first base/outfield backup job heats up . . . Asked if there’s one position where he’s concerned about depth, Farrell said third base. “The depth there might not be as readily clear as others,” he said. “We have to take a look at some guys over there. You’ll see Brock Holt over there. That prototypical guy is not clear-cut. It would be great to have two or three deep at every position, wishful thinking. [Pedro] Ciriaco did a great job when he stepped in for Will last year and he made the most of an opportunity. He’s a valuable guy to have on a team.” Ciriaco started at third base and had a hit and two RBIs Sunday . . . The Sox signed lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league deal. He will play for Australia in the World Baseball Classic.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.