JUPITER, Fla. — Could Koji Uehara start the season on the disabled list?
With the Red Sox closer still unavailable to pitch in a game, the possibility increases. Manager John Farrell said as much Tuesday.
“With each passing day that he’s not in a game, there’s growing concern,” said Farrell. “Will he be ready for April 6? We’re working through that. It’s important for all of us to see him in games and for Koji as well, to evaluate his stuff and what he has when he goes to the mound.”
Farrell thinks that Uehara, who has a strained hamstring and hasn’t pitched in a game since March 14, will throw a bullpen session before the end of the week. He’s not scheduled for any game action.
“Getting through the week, everything will be taken into account,” said Farrell. “Whether or not three games next week would give him six overall . . . is that enough? We just have to evaluate things as he starts pitching in games.”
Uehara also suffered from a back/shoulder issue last season and got lit up in August and September. The Red Sox gave him a two-year, $18 million deal to remain in Boston as he went into free agency.
If he can’t start the season, the Red Sox’ back-end bullpen strength will be tested in a hurry.
Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, and Alexi Ogando would be candidates for the closer role in Uehara’s absence. The Red Sox have been grooming Matt Barnes as a possible closer, but he has not pitched well lately.
If Uehara has to go on the disabled list to start the season, the Sox can backdate the move as far as March 27, so he could return for the Yankee series April 10-12. Uehara has told reporters that he wouldn’t necessarily need a lot of time to be ready. But the Red Sox are usually very cautious in these situations.
It doesn’t appear that the Red Sox would go to an outside source for another reliever. Rafael Soriano is a free agent, while Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon remains available in a trade. But the Red Sox don’t feel Uehara’s current injury is a long-term issue.
Moncada in action
Yoan Moncada, who spent 12 days practicing in minor league camp after signing with the Sox, has played the last two days for Single A Salem.
Moncada was the designated hitter Monday in Port Charlotte, and on Tuesday, he started at second base and went 0 for 2 in five innings.
Moncada hit a long fly ball to center field his first time, showing unusual bat speed. He struck out his second time up, swinging through a breaking ball.
The Red Sox have decided to leave Moncada at second base for now because that is the position he is most familiar with.
In a 9-4 loss to the Marlins, Allen Craig looked like his old self with a bases-loaded double to right-center, scoring three runs against Marlins starter Tom Koehler. That’s what Craig, a career .349 hitter with a .970 OPS with runners in scoring position, used to do. “Typically I can drive the ball in that situation,” he said. “That’s what I do when I’m locked in, and it feels like I’m getting there.” Said Farrell, “He’s always had a knack for the RBI situation. Good to see him drive a baseball with men on. A marked improvement from last year.” . . . In Fort Myers, David Ortiz took a long session of batting practice on the field, then did some base running by himself. Ortiz, who has not played since March 16 because of general soreness, said he expects to get in a game before the end of the week. “I’m feeling pretty good,” he said.
Lefty up, lefty down
The tale of two lefties continues. Brian Johnson continues to look good, Henry Owens doesn’t.
Johnson started against Miami and pitched 3⅔ innings, allowing just one run. He got Giancarlo Stanton to strike out and ground out. Owens (0-3) was tagged for six runs, four earned. He made a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt in the eighth and the floodgates opened. He has an 8.37 ERA in his first major league camp. But Johnson has a 2.38 ERA.
“I thought he threw as good as his previous outings,” Farrell said. “He shows three very good pitches that he can throw for strikes. His curve continues to show sharpness and depth to it. A solid outing.” But on Owens: “He didn’t command the count in the second inning. They laid off the changeup, where he was accustomed to getting swings at lower levels. He had some pitches up in the strike zone and they were able to square them up. Not accustomed to coming out of the bullpen, but the experience against big league hitters is invaluable to him.”
Soon for Vazquez
Christian Vazquez, who has been out since March 13 with a sore elbow, doesn’t know when he will catch in a major league game but expects it will be soon. He has caught seven innings in minor league games and taken regular at-bats, including going 3 for 3 with a double for Single A Salem Tuesday . . . Righthander Felipe Paulino strained a biceps while warming up and did not pitch in a minor league game as scheduled. Pitching coach Juan Nieves said he was held out as a precaution and that the injury did not seem serious.
Nick Cafardo reported from Jupiter, Fla., and Peter Abraham from Fort Myers, Fla.