June 23, 2018
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Red Sox’ Middlebrooks says wrist is OK

By The Sports Xchange, Special to the BDN

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks told reporters Thursday that his right wrist was fine after being examined by the team’s medical staff, but he’ll visit a wrist specialist to determine if more tests are needed.

Middlebrooks checked his swing in the first inning of Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles, and appeared to injure the same wrist he fractured Aug. 10, when he was hit by a pitch, ending his rookie season.

He will be fitted for a protective batting glove. He told reporters that the initial exam didn’t reveal any structural damage and that the pain quickly subsided.

“I’m fine,” Middlebrooks said in a report on the Red Sox website. “Same as last night. [I was] just scared. It scared me. I felt just an awkward feeling, awkward movement of the wrist. It was the initial zing of pain and that was it. I expect to be fine. I’m fine right now. I could have swung a bat last night.”

Not only was Middlebrooks pain-free, but he is expected to return to the lineup as soon as Friday night, when the Red Sox host the Pirates at JetBlue Park, according the Red Sox website.

“He’ll be day to day until he takes BP, which should be tomorrow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell on the team’s website. “Our plan right now is that he would be able to go tomorrow, but we’ll just be sure he comes through BP without any issue.”

After Farrell’s morning update, Middlebrooks actually did take batting practice back in Fort Myers, and he reported no ill effects.

Middlebrooks received an examination as soon as he arrived at the ballpark on Thursday.

“His exam this morning was benign,” said Farrell on the team’s website. “He didn’t feel any discomfort when he was put through a battery of tests and he’s actually been cleared for all baseball activities, but I’m sure he’s going to take the day to just let it rest. But given the way he came out after the swing, it was obviously very good news this morning.”

Middlebrooks batted .288 in 75 games as a rookie, with 15 homers and 54 RBIs.

In Thursday’s game, Jose Iglesias, J.C. Linares and Lyle Overbay drove in two runs each Thursday as the Red Sox downed the erratic Pirates, 16-6, in Grapefruit League play, according to a report on the Red Sox website.

The bulk of the scoring by Boston (3-4) came on four walks with the bases loaded and two errors by Pirates (2-3) shortstop Josh Harrison that let in three other runs.

Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, the club’s No. 2 prospect making his debut against big league competition, was exempt from the control woes, issuing only one in his two innings. Taillon allowed one hit and struck out three in his only exhibition appearance prior to departing on Sunday to join Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic.

Both of Overbay’s RBIs came on bases-loaded walks. Pirates pitchers had issued a total of 10 walks in their first four games, but they teamed up for 15 bases on balls on Thursday — including three consecutively with the bases loaded in a five-run fourth inning.

“A lot of patience. I think they threw 230 pitches,” Farrell said on the team’s website. “You’re seeing guys stay with a consistent approach and staying with the process and we maintained that.”

The Bucs did their scoring in louder fashion, but Jared Goedert’s three-run homer, off starter John Lackey in the second, and Felix Pie’s two-run shot, off Chris Hernandez in the fifth, couldn’t keep up with the permissive pitching.

On Friday, the Red Sox will get their first look at Mike Napoli when the Boston free-agent acquisition suits up to play first base against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 31-year-old Napoli said his hips have remained pain-free. He has been taking batting practice and going through defensive drills, but most of his running has been in a pool to lessen the impact on his legs.

“I’m just going to play the game. That’s the best way to go at it,” Napoli said. “If you start worrying about things, that’s when you hurt yourself.”

Napoli has been diagnosed with avascular necrosis, which causes bone deterioration due to an interruption of the blood supply. Because of the condition, which was detected during a physical before his free-agent deal became official, Napoli has been held back at spring training.

He completed base-running drills on Wednesday — one of the final hurdles before he could get back on the playing field.

Napoli and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal for $5 million with incentives to earn another $8 million more if he stays healthy based on plate appearances.

He hit .227 with 24 home runs last year for the Texas Rangers. Napoli, who has been a catcher for most of his career, will primarily play first base for the Red Sox.

Knuckleball summit

RHP Steven Wright participated in a de facto knuckleballer summit recently in Dunedin, Fla. Not only did Wright start against defending NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, he also got to spend some time with former Red Sox standout Tim Wakefield, a Florida resident who stopped by to talk shop with Wright. “I think it’s going to be a popular pitch amongst a lot of young kids out there,” Wakefield said. “I think it brings hope to a younger generation of baseball players that may not have the velocity and can’t compete at a higher level, but if they can learn this pitch, it gives them hope that one day they can wear a big-league uniform.”

Lowell helping out

Wakefield wasn’t the only visitor to camp. Former World Series MVP and Gold Glove winner Mike Lowell stopped by, at the encouragement of 2B Dustin Pedroia, to offer some pointers to young 3B Will Middlebrooks on turning the double play. “Oh, it’s huge for me,” Middlebrooks said. “That’s the guy who has won World Series, he’s won Gold Gloves. That’s what I want to do, that’s what I’m here for. Anytime I can get information from a guy with that experience, it can help.”

Gomes’ positive impact

OF Jonny Gomes is here because he can hit left-handed pitching exceptionally well but also because he’s considered one of the few impactful clubhouse personalities in the game and the Red Sox needed an overhaul in that department. “I haven’t faked anything,” he said. “Now that I’m in a big market with the Red Sox, it’s not like I’m saying, ‘OK, now I’ve got to really do it.’ You can’t try. You see guys all the time spiking their helmet or their bat, and it’s like, ‘Dude, you’re not mad.’ It’s such an act. I haven’t acted anything.”

Lackey on the mound

RHP John Lackey made his long-awaited return to the mound by throwing an inning and allowing a run in his first appearance against big-league hitters since undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. “I kind of took a second before I went on the mound, on the bench, and just reflected on the past year and a half, and it’s been a lot of work and I’ve got to thank a lot of trainers, a lot of people that helped me get back to this point,” Lackey said. “I was excited to be back out there.” Lackey said he’s still trying to regain the feel for his off-speed pitches.

Bard scrutinized

RHP Daniel Bard knows he’s going to be under the microscope this spring after a disastrous 2012 that opened with Bard in the rotation and ended with him an afterthought riding the shuttle between Boston and Triple-A. Bard’s outings now face a scrutiny typically reserved for confirmation hearings, with each pitch poked, prodded and analyzed until it can be held up as proof that he’s either turned the corner or fallen over the cliff for good. “It’s probably different than most relievers’ experience,” Bard acknowledged. “It comes with the territory of being me, I guess.”

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