FORT MYERS, Fla. (CBS) — Welcome to the first official day of Red Sox pitchers and catchers working out here in sunny Fort Myers. Temperatures are in the 70s with abundant sunshine.
Pitchers and catchers took to the JetBlue Park complex fields around 9:30 this morning after a brief meeting inside. After stretching and throwing, the starters took the mound for PFP drills — basically fundamentals work. Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz were tied by the hips as they got their work in. I spent a few minutes chatting with Buchholz prior to the workout. He told me he shut it down after the season for about a month — didn’t pick up a ball. He said the pain he battled through at the end of the postseason subsided pretty quickly. He said he learned a lot about himself by gutting his way through four innings in Boston’s Game 4 win in St Louis and said he knows he can now pitch if he has to – not just throw the ball.
WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche reports
I watched the young pitchers throw bullpens under the watchful eyes of manager John Farrell, pitching coach Juan Nieves and a host of baseball ops guys. Henry Owens, the 6-foot-6 left-hander can crank it up and should be fun to watch. Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica also threw.
The catching group was interesting to see for the first time. David Ross was his usual vocal self with his pitchers. A.J. Pierzynski was on hand as well. The thing that sticks out as you watch him is the size of his arms. Christian Vazquez is a rock at 5-foot-9 with a rocket of an arm. Ryan Lavarnway also was in the group, and you have to wonder where he’ll up this season. He’s still young and with power, and he still has time to carve a niche somewhere in the big leagues. He’s been taking ground balls at first, too.
Video Blog From Dan Roche
It was also nice to see the Captain, Jason Varitek, working with the catchers. I wonder what he’s saying to each catcher.
After bullpens, I watched some hitting and some infield drills. Brian Butterfield was hitting fungoes to the third basemen. Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini were being watched by Farrell and assistant GM Mike Hazen. Cecchini split time between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season and is a kid to watch.
Dan Roche also spoke with Ryan Johnston and Jermaine Wiggins on Monday, and he was asked about the news of Ryan Dempster taking 2014 off and in all likelihood retiring:
“He caught a lot of people by surprise,” Rochie said. “To me, the lasting impression I had was just how much it caught the Red Sox players themselves — once the surprise was over, just how disappointed they were that they weren’t going to go forward with Ryan Dempster. And you kind of got a glimpse of just how important he was to this team, maybe off the field more so than even on the field last year.”
“He’s definitely retired,” Rochie said, even though Dempster couldn’t say the word. “At least in my mind, it’s 99 percent, and then even if he decided to come back, I don’t know how effective he could be if he did feel better in a couple of months.”
And what are Rochie’s thoughts with regard to the Red Sox’ chances of rekindling that spirit that led to a championship last year?
“They’ve got the target on their backs. Last year, they were able to do what they did — even in Boston, it was relatively quiet as far as them being under the radar,” Roche said. “Now they’re in the spotlight. How do they respond? I think they have good leadership, and we’re finding out more and more just how much fun [they had] and how well they got together behind the scenes on a daily basis. The stories about Dempster and just being one of those huge guys in that clubhouse, this is going to be a test. They’re going to have some adversity.”
Watch: Sports Final: John Farrell Interview
“They like the fact that they started pretty much right after the World Series ended, a core group of guys texting each other, saying turn the page, let’s go,” Roche continued. “They like to work, they like to have fun. Will that lead to being able to defend the World Series championship? No team has [repeated] since 2000, when the Yankees won back-to-back-to-back. It’s just awfully hard. You have to have a lot of things go right.
“I think they’ve got a good core group of guys that just like to go out and play the game, and if they can keep that amongst themselves I think they’ll be in pretty good shape in that way as far as the chemistry goes.”
Listen to Rochie talk to Johnston & Wiggy: