FORT MYERS, Fla. — Chris Sale, David Price and Craig Kimbrel — perhaps the three most important pitchers on the Red Sox, all received positive news on Sunday.
Manager Alex Cora said Sale, who was struck on the left hip by a line drive on Saturday, “felt fine” and is scheduled to make his Opening Day start against the Rays at St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday.
“He was here early,” Cora said. ”He was going to long toss today and then throw an aggressive bullpen [Monday] and be ready to roll on Thursday. He’s looking forward to Thursday.”
When Sale walked out to the field for stretching on Sunday, he didn’t appear to show any effects.
Sale was struck on a liner by first baseman J.D. Davis, the fourth hitter in the Astros’ lineup, with two outs in the first inning. Sale threw 26 pitches, 16 for strikes.
Price started Sunday’s game vs. the Twins and allowed a leadoff homer to Brian Dozier, but settled down to pitch a dominant three innings (one hit, one run, four strikeouts, two walks), which was followed by 30 more pitches of work in the bullpen.
“Every five days I felt better and better, even as the game went on I continued to feel better. This is the best I’ve felt for an entire spring training. And I’m excited for Friday,” said Price, who will start Game 2 of the season.
“I’m always working on fastball command,” Price said. “That’s a key for me. The curveball was really good. I was throwing cutters from both sides and they were good. Breaking ball had good action. It’s usually a pitch that doesn’t get sharp until April or May. I feel good already with all four pitches.
“When you don’t feel good you can’t throw curveballs the way you want, so feeling as good as I’ve felt on days 1-5 . . . has allowed me to work on things.”
Price and some of the other pitchers were watching Eduardo Rodriguez throw in a minor league game when Sale was hit by the line drive on Saturday.
“We saw video of it afterward,’’ Price said. “Five minutes later we saw that he was walking off the field and we knew then it was good.”
Kimbrel, making his first appearance in a big-league spring training game this season, allowed a single. He faced four batters in an inning of work.
“It was good to get back out there and throw my pitches up there to see how they were working,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t say I was as sharp as I will be. I had little weak contact and strong contact out there. Curveball will come. The more I throw it the better it will get. Overall, I thought it was a good day.”
Will he need another outing?
“We’ll see how I feel tomorrow,’’ he said. “If I threw Tuesday it would be a lot if I have to throw Thursday and Friday as well.”
Kimbrel missed most of March tending to his daughter’s recovery from a second heart procedure. He has pitched in a minor league game and believes he can start the season with minimal action during spring training.
Cora has an idea of what the Red Sox roster will look like for the start of the season, but said there are “some big decisions” that still needed to be worked out.
Those decisions could involve the starting rotation and the bullpen. It appears Brian Johnson is the fourth starter, but the fifth spot could come down to Hector Velazquez or Marcus Walden. The bullpen appears set with Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, and Bobby Poyner.
There could be deals to weed out some players. Deven Marrero was traded to Arizona on Saturday, leaving Blake Swihart, Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, and Sandy Leon as the likely bench. The Red Sox have 39 players on the 40-man roster, but will need spots for Poyner and Walden if they make the team.
Utility player Ivan De Jesus Jr., who was reassigned Saturday, has had an outstanding camp. He leads the Red Sox with 19 hits, has a .388 average and a .974 OPS with five doubles and one home run. Unless he gets traded, DeJesus, who appeared in eight games with the Red Sox in 2012, will start at Pawtucket.
Getting his swings
J.D. Martinez hit second and Andrew Benintendi batted fourth in Sunday’s 6-1 victory over the Twins. Cora said it was merely a matter of getting Martinez more at-bats to prepare for the season. Cora indicated Martinez will be the No. 4 hitter . . . Christian Vazquez caught Price after Vazquez caught Sale (albeit for less than inning Saturday). Cora is preparing Vazquez, who signed a three-year extension Saturday, as the primary catcher this season. Leon might not be Sale’s primary catcher, as was customary last season.
Betts tearing it up
Mookie Betts started spring training 0 for 16, but he’s now hitting .340, going 16 for 31 after the hitless start, with a pair of homers off good pitchers such as Kyle Gibson and Fernando Rodney. Betts has enjoyed being with new hitting coach Tim Hyers, who was his hitting coach in the minors. “He knows me pretty well so we’ve just gotten back to some basics that have worked out well for me so far,” Betts said . . . Despite an outstanding camp, Sam Travis was optioned to Pawtucket after Sunday’s game. Travis has a team-high six homers and 17 RBIs in 27 spring games.