LAKELAND, Fla. — The Red Sox dropped seven largely ineffective pitchers off their 40-man roster after last season. Most were designated for assignment then either released or sent outright to the minors.
But Ryan Weber, who was 2-4 with a 5.08 earned run average over 18 games and 40⅔ innings, kept his spot. The Sox looked beyond his statistics and saw something in the 29-year-old righthander that was intriguing enough to keep him on the roster.
Weber throws five pitches but relies primarily on his sinker, curveball and changeup with only occasional cutters and four-seam fastballs.
Statcast recorded Weber throwing only eight cutters last season. The Sox studied the pitch and felt it was good enough for Weber to use more often.
His sinker tails down and away to lefthanded hitters. A cutter that breaks in to lefties could become an effective swing-and-miss pitch but the greater benefit would be keeping the hitter from sitting on the sinker.
“We talked about it a little bit last year. But it was something new and he was a little reluctant to try it,” pitching coach Dave Bush said. “Over time he got more comfortable with the idea. We really impressed upon him the importance to the rest of his pitches.”
Because Weber tops out at 90 m.p.h., he needs a good mix to be effective. The cutter doesn’t have to be a great pitch; just one good enough to make his other pitches a little better.
“It’s tough to cover both sides of the plate for a hitter,” Weber said. “You want to keep them honest.”
Weber worked on his cutter against the Detroit Tigers on Monday with promising results. He allowed one unearned run on three hits over three innings and struck out six without a walk.
It was further evidence that whether it’s as a starter or the multi-inning “bulk” pitcher who follows an opener, Weber could prove helpful to the Sox.
“If I get the ball in the first inning or the third inning, I’m going to pitch the way I pitch,” Weber said. “I’m comfortable starting or relieving.”
Manager Ron Roenicke said Weber would continue to get stretched out.
“He knows how to pitch. When to mix it up and when to attack,” Roenicke said. “He’s got a good feel. He throws strikes.”
Weber wasn’t too concerned as the Sox chopped into the roster.
“They make the decisions; it’s up to them to figure out who they want. I just did my normal workouts not worrying about the roster,” Weber said. “I was just getting ready for spring training wherever that was going to be. But it was nice to know they believed in me.”
Mitch Moreland, who took himself out of Sunday’s game with a tight right hamstring, should get back on the field later this week.
“Threw a little bit. Doing a little running on the treadmill and stuff,” he said. “We’re going to work on it and make sure we’ve got it strong.”
Moreland has a long history of lower-body injuries and was being cautious.
“I don’t know if it’ll be a couple of days but it shouldn’t be much longer,” Roenicke said.
Andrew Benintendi, who hasn’t played since Thursday because of a sore quad, is scheduled to be the designated hitter against the Yankees on Tuesday in Tampa.
Martin Perez will face the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday. Perez faced the Tigers last Wednesday and allowed one unearned run over three innings.
“It’s good to go face the lineup you’re going to see during the season,” Perez said. “So, you prepare yourself a little bit more and you compete. Just go out there and work on what you need to work on and make adjustments during the game.”
Perez is keying in on the shape of his curveball, something he made a priority for spring training. He threw his curveball only 4.7 percent of the time last year.
“Just to change the hitter’s eye levels,” Perez said. “I want to throw something down to change the eyes and then come back with my hardest pitches.”
Josh Taylor, Austin Brice and Josh Osich are among the pitchers set to follow Perez.
Yaz in the house
Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski arrived at Fort Myers for his annual visit to work with minor league hitters. Yastrzemski, 80, was in uniform and spent some time catching up with Dwight Evans and talking with Benintendi. NESN’s Jerry Remy also arrived at camp . . . In his first appearance of the spring, Matt Barnes buzzed through a perfect fourth inning that included a strikeout of C.J. Cron . . . Rusney Castillo singled in the seventh inning and jogged to first base. When the ball skipped past right fielder Riley Green and went to the fence, Castillo was only able to make second base.