John Farrell on Stephen Drew: 'The one thing that we don't want is a lingering what-if'

February 15, 2014 - 8:03 am

FORT MYERS -- The clock may be ticking for the Red Sox and free agent Stephen Drew. The team retains interest in bringing back the shortstop in 2014. But for now, there is no apparent progress in talks with the 30-year-old. With the vast majority of the Red Sox' 40-man roster now in camp -- including the two players who would be most directly impacted if Drew re-signed, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks -- the Sox would like some clarity regarding their roster so that they can prepare for the season. "I think there's been ongoing dialogue there but there's nothing new to really report or update," said Sox manager John Farrell. "I think the one thing that we don't want is a lingering what-if if Stephen is still out there. I think in all fairness to our guys, our clubhouse, guys that would be affected if he were to be brought in, certainly I can't speak for [GM Ben Cherington] in this situation, I think the more that we know what our team is going to look like, or at least those guys in our clubhouse, it probably settles some of that wondering if another player is going to join us." Farrell said that, for the time being, Bogaerts will prepare exclusively at shortstop, with the club adapting as necessary should another player acquisition take place. "The conversations with Xander to date have been to focus on shortstop," said Farrell. "If that needs to be adjusted, we'll adjust it at that time, but we're moving forward with the players that are here." OTHER NOTES -- Farrell identified the three key questions facing the Sox this spring as being pitcher health, the question of who will lead off (with Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava representing the most likely candidates, with the possibility of switching between the two in that spot based on whether a right-handed or left-handed starter is on the mound) and transitioning a pair of rookies (Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.) to up-the-middle positions. -- Farrell said that Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, based on their added workloads of a year ago, will make five spring training starts rather than the typical six. -- The manager suggested that the Sox regard Middlebrooks as an impact player, with his struggles in 2013 (.227 average, .271 OBP, .425 slugging, 17 homers in 94 games) representing what the team hopes is an aberration. "I think in talking with Will at length, whether it was throughout the course of the year or having sit-down conversations with him in the offseason, he learned a lot last year. He was challenged in a few ways. I think that through those experiences, he's understanding of what his needs and what his strengths are more readily, and that's part of the maturation process of a player," said Farrell. "The one thing he hasn't lost is his raw abilities and his talent. I feel like what he was two years ago is maybe more representative than what he was a year ago, and we feel like there's a very good major league player in there." -- Farrell said that outfielder Grady Sizemore is moving well in the early paces of camp and doesn't face any physical restrictions at this time, but he also noted that it's impossible to get a clear picture of where he is until he has a chance to play in games for the first time since 2011. -- Left-hander Felix Doubront is making an adjustment in his delivery to improve his strike-throwing, but while Farrell noted that such an adjustment could prove significant on the mound, the more meaningful change was an improvement in offseason conditioning from a year ago. "There are times where his arm action would get a little bit long. That would maybe create some inconsistencies with strike-throwing and I think once you see him throw on the mound you'€™ll see a little shorter arm-circle on the back side and maybe a little more rhythm in his hands. Those are two areas that might sound subtle in conversation but can have a pretty profound effect on overall consistency," said Farrell. "Most importantly what Felix has done this offseason is he'€™s done a great job putting himself in better physical condition." -- Saturday marked the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Just two pitchers have yet to arrive. Left-hander Jose Mijares (signed to a minor league deal) expected on Monday, while fellow lefty Rich Hill has been delayed by what Farrell described as a family matter.