ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For the first time since June 22, Steven Wright took the mound and faced hitters Friday afternoon.
The knuckleballer threw 35 pitches over two innings of live batting practice at Tropicana Field. Wright faced a pair of Gulf Coast League players who were driven up from the team facility in Fort Myers.
“Excellent, excellent,” manager Alex Cora said. “His stuff was good. Everyone was very impressed with how he threw the ball. We’ll see how he reacts and we’ll go from there.”
Cora said Wright could start a minor league rehabilitation assignment next week and join the team at some point in September.
The plan would be for Wright to pitch in relief.
Wright is on the disabled list recovering from inflammation in his left knee related to surgery he had last October. He was 2-1 with a 3.38 earned run average in 10 games, four of them starts.
Wright said his knee held up physically.
“I tried to make it as game-like as possible. I felt good,” he said. “I had a lot of adrenaline. It was the best I’ve felt in awhile.”
The Sox feel they can better manage Wright’s knee if he pitches shorter stints. He is confident he will return to the roster.
“I will, I will. If I keep progressing the way I have been there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to,” Wright said.
The Sox made it a good experience for 17-year-old Antoni Flores and 20-year-old Eduard Conde, the prospects who faced Wright. Both are from Venezuela.
After flailing at the knuckleball, they stuck around for a round of batting practice with Andrew Benintendi off one of the coaches, Laz Gutierrez. They then watched the Sox take batting practice and had a chance to talk to Cora and spend time with their countryman Sandy Leon.
“I’d never faced a knuckleball before,” Conde said. “The ball was all over the place.”
Flores, a shortstop, was signed for $1.5 million last year. He impressed the Sox coaches with his opposite-field power in the cage.
Mitch Moreland, who left Thursday’s game in the first inning with a bruised left knee, was feeling better than he expected to, but he did not play in the 10-3 loss to the Rays.
“I moved it around a little bit. It’s not too bad,” Moreland said. “If I had to, I feel like I could grind through it. We’ll see how it goes. It’s better than what it was.”
Moreland was injured when he slid into the concrete lip of the photographer’s well adjacent to the first base dugout.
Moreland said he let the Sox know the area is a hazard and should be padded.
“I wasn’t super happy with it,” he said. “As soon as I slid I didn’t really know what I hit. I had seen it before but it didn’t really register until I slid into it.”
Moreland believes the Sox will do something to make it safer.
“I know they’re looking into it,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.
The second annual Players Weekend saw the teams take the field in special uniforms with their nicknames on the back. The players also could wear spikes or use bats, shin guards, and other equipment in any color they wanted.
“If we win the series I’ll enjoy it,” Cora said. “I think it’s fun, the different shoes and bats, the nicknames. It’s good for them to express themselves, let people know who you are.”
Cora had “AC” on the back of his jersey. Most of the players used some derivation of their name. Steve Pearce, who went with “Late Lightning,” stood out with a unique choice.
The uniforms included a blank white patch on the right sleeve for the players and coaches to write the names of people influential in their careers.
Most of the Sox players wrote “Mom and Dad” or the names of their wives and children.
J.D. Martinez paid tribute to Paul Casanova, who died last Aug. 12. Casanova, who played 10 years in the majors, was one of Martinez’s first hitting instructors.
David Price wrote “Clubhouse staff” on his jersey.
The Red Sox promoted infielder Michael Chavis to Triple A Pawtucket. Chavis, 23, hit .303 with an .897 OPS in 33 games for Double A Portland after serving an 80-game suspension for steroid use. Chavis is not eligible for postseason play in the majors or minors because of the suspension. Chavis was 3 for 4 with two doubles, a home run, and two RBIs in his first game for the PawSox, a 13-4 loss at Buffalo . . . Mookie Betts was the designated hitter to give him a day largely off his feet. He went 0 for 3 with two walks. Martinez, who went 3 for 5 to improve his average to .335, started in right field and could stay there on Saturday if Jackie Bradley Jr. gets a day off . . . Latin American scouting coordinator Rollie Pino and 89-year-old major league scout Joe McDonald were among the Sox officials at the game . . . The scoreboard at Tropicana Field shows exit velocity and vertical angle on balls put in play.