FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox sent three of their best prospects down the sidewalk to minor league camp Monday morning. But manager John Farrell expects to see them again soon.
Catcher Christian Vazquez and righthander Allen Webster were optioned to Triple A Pawtucket. Shortstop Deven Marrero was reassigned.
“These three guys in particular are, I think, very, very exceptionally talented guys and are not that far away from the big leagues,” Farrell said.
Webster was not impressive statistically in four starts, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and seven walks over 12 innings. But Farrell saw improvement from last season, when Webster looked overmatched in eight appearances with the Sox.
“We’re seeing a guy that’s maturing on the mound. The use of his two-seamer particularly and the number of strikes in the bottom of the strike zone,” Farrell said. “It’s been very encouraging.”
Farrell said there wouldn’t be a hesitation to call up Vazquez if the Red Sox needed a catcher because of his defensive acumen and ability to handle the pitching staff. Marrero, Farrell said, is a well-above-average defender and is developing a more consistent approach at the plate.
Vazquez was 5 of 10 this spring with a home run. Marrero was 7 of 21.
The Sox now have 43 players in major league camp. That includes injured pitchers Steven Wright and John Ely.
Lackey goes five
John Lackey allowed five runs on six hits against the Cardinals in a game the Red Sox won, 10-5. But what mattered most to him was pitching five innings and throwing 60 pitches.
“I felt OK,” he said. “I got to the pitch count I wanted to get to. I got some things accomplished in the bullpen before the game. I threw my cutter for the first time. Came out of it healthy. Keep moving.”
Until Monday, Lackey had thrown mostly four-seam fastballs to build up his arm strength. He used his secondary pitches against the Cardinals.
“It’s a work in progress,” Lackey said of his cutter.
The Red Sox bullpen — Edward Mujica, Rubby De La Rosa, Koji Uehara, and Junichi Tazawa — was almost perfect. They held the Cardinals to one hit over four innings and struck out four without a walk.
Uehara’s consistency and excellence is what it was last season. He has thrown four hitless innings, giving up one walk and striking out three.
New Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is not expected to play against the Red Sox on Tuesday in Tampa, according to New York manager Joe Girardi.
Ellsbury has not played since Friday because of a strained right calf. He is 4 of 23 this spring with one home run and no stolen bases in nine games.
The Red Sox will pitch Felix Doubront against Michael Pineda. The Sox are sending Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mike Carp, Johnny Gomes, and Ryan Lavarnway on the trip.
The Red Sox host the Yankees on Thursday. Clay Buchholz and Chris Capuano will pitch that game with Buchholz hoping to go four innings and Capuano five.
Orioles tap Tillman
Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced that Chris Tillman would start on Opening Day against the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Tillman was 3-1 with a 2.65 earned run average in six starts against the Sox last season.
The righthander was 16-7 overall with a 3.71 ERA and made the All-Star team for the first time.
The Red Sox haven’t officially named Jon Lester as their starter, but that is a formality at this point.
Ubaldo Jimenez is lined up as Baltimore’s second starter and would face Lackey.
Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Friday. That will be his first time facing hitters. It seems unlikely that Breslow will have enough time to get ready for Opening Day, but Farrell has not discounted that. Breslow has denied any injury, but the Sox have been extraordinarily cautious with his workload . . . Bogaerts made one of his best defensive plays of the spring in the sixth inning when he ranged deep in the hole to backhand a ball hit by the Cardinals’ Shane Robinson and made a strong throw to first base. “Very encouraging,” Farrell said. “Above-average runner, backhand play, the transfer, the arm strength. He’s looked very good at short.” . . . The Sox have hit 23 home runs in 19 spring training games. They hit only 17 over 35 spring games last season.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.