PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — While the Red Sox remain in what they describe as a “fact-finding” mode regarding the elbow injury to Christian Vazquez, the team considers it unlikely that he’ll be ready to catch on Opening Day.
An MRI, Vazquez said from Fort Myers, “found something” and will require a second opinion in the coming days, with the details of the subsequent examination — who will perform it, where it will take place, whether it will be another MRI or a contrast MRI (in which dye is injected into the elbow to get a better read on the nature of the injury) — still to be determined.
“They told me they found something, but I’m looking for a second opinion. They hope it’s not bad,” said Vazquez. “I’m waiting. I don’t have the answer yet [as to the nature of the injury]. I’m waiting.”
Manager John Farrell said that while the team is still determining the extent of the injury, Vazquez is almost certain to open the season on the disabled list.
“It’s hard to see him being available Opening Day,” said Farrell. “I was not told specifically what was going on there. We just know that there has been some findings in the MRI and I think before we get too far ahead of ourselves, a second opinion will be had and information compared. But clearly the MRI suggests that there’s more information that’s going to be had.”
Vazquez acknowledged feeling “a lot” of anxiety, even as he expressed confidence in the Sox’ medical staff. While teammate Ryan Hanigan, who had been slated to back up Vazquez, did not know the particulars of the injury, he sounded an ominous note about the amount of time the catcher might be sidelined.
“It’s tough, man,” said Hanigan. “He’s a good kid. He worked hard. It’s just too bad. Things happen. He’ll be back. He’s just going to have to put in the work to get himself back. The positive thing is, whatever happens, he won’t have to deal with it the rest of his career.”
With Vazquez to be sidelined to start the year, Hanigan is expected to be the Sox’ primary catcher. The Sox will wait until they know more about Vazquez’s situation before determining whether Hanigan will be complemented behind the plate by Blake Swihart (who is on the 40-man roster) or veteran Humberto Quintero (who is not).
“Until we get further information, and have a clearer-cut picture of what Christian’s situation is going to be, that probably gives us a little more direction,” Farrell said.
Hanigan has averaged just 87 games per year since 2009, exceeding 100 contests just once (112 in 2012), but Farrell said the Sox are comfortable with the veteran as their starter while Vazquez is out.
“If we’re finding him in the lineup five days a week, I’m perfectly fine with that right now,” said Farrell.
Hanigan said that he welcomes a bigger role, even as he lamented Vazquez’s injury.
“I always train to come in to be a starting guy. That’s always kind of what I wanted to tell you the truth,” said Hanigan. “I’ve trained that way in the offseason. I’m going to work hard to be ready whenever my name is called.”
For the first time in his spring bullpen audition, Matt Barnes entered a game in the middle of an inning. With two on and two out in the fourth, he got a groundout to preserve a 6-5 advantage, then added two more scoreless innings in which he punched out four in the Red Sox’ 9-6 victory over the Rays. He sat at 94-95 m.p.h. and topped out at 96 in his final inning of work.
“I’ve only been a reliever for a few weeks now, I guess, so I’m used to trying to go five, six, seven innings, so I’d like to think my arm would hold up for a third inning after a couple of weeks,” Barnes said.
With the Sox trying to determine if Koji Uehara or Joe Kelly will open the year on the DL, Barnes is in competition for a potential bullpen spot to start the season.
“The way he’s thrown the ball, the way Robbie Ross [Jr.] has come on the last three outings, we’ve got some very good options from which to choose,” said Farrell.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright didn’t give up a hit through three shutout innings before a two-out error in the fourth opened the door to a five-run inning against the Rays. Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer in the contest, his team-leading third of the spring, and Hanley Ramirez ripped an RBI double.
Uehara still hurting
Uehara still felt some soreness in his hamstring in a bullpen session Saturday. He’ll be reevaluated Sunday, but in all likelihood, he’ll need to throw at least one more bullpen session before he appears in a game. While the window is narrowing for him to prove he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day, Farrell said it wasn’t shut. “Not going to go that far yet,” Farrell said of whether Uehara seemed likely to open the year on the DL. “Even if Koji were to get in a couple games, I think we’d still remain open-minded.” . . . Shane Victorino, in the first of what the Sox would like to be three straight games, went 1 for 3 with a single and a walk while moving well down the line . . . Rick Porcello threw 96 pitches (71 strikes) over seven innings in a minor league game. He allowed one run on five hits, walked one, and struck out six. He was caught by Quintero, who went 0 for 6 . . . Joe Kelly felt fine in the wake of a three-inning minor league start on Friday, his first game since confronting biceps tightness March 16. The Sox have yet to decide whether his next start on Wednesday will be in a big league or minor league spring training game.