John Farrell throws a little 'camouflage' into the starting rotation mystery while Red Sox look to run more in '15

Mike Petraglia
February 27, 2015 - 8:38 am
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When three of his projected starting pitchers wound up on the first pitching rotation charts of spring training inside the JetBlue clubhouse Friday morning, John Farrell had some explaining to do. Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello were listed to pitch against Northeastern in the spring debut Tuesday afternoon, with Wade Miley set to take the hill against Boston College hours later in the nightcap. Was it a grand conspiracy to hide who he feels is the club's No. 1 starter from the group of Porcello, Buchholz and Miley? "Camouflage, it's a big thing," Farrell joked. Farrell then offered the more serious explanation in advance of spring games. "We also have a doubleheader," Farrell said. "It's a matter of getting a number of guys to the mound as early as we can." Joe Kelly will start the Grapefruit League opener on Thursday against the Twins and Justin Masterson, who throws live BP on Monday, would be expected to start against the Marlins on Friday. "We've got an overall plan with getting all five guys, really 10 or 11 guys stretched out as starters, to a point in camp where innings are going to be a little less available outside the initial five. We'll get into that in due time," Farrell said. Farrell was asked what will matter most this spring when determining the order of his starters. "Merit is one. You factor in what's taken place either the year or years before," Farrell said. "That's one factor. You're also looking at, when you start to slot guys in, if there are pitchers that have anticipated higher innings projections you try to stagger them so you're not potentially over-taxing a bullpen on consecutive days. And then you're trying to break things up. If you're in a three-game series, are giving different looks, based on the style of that starter." Spring training games will also provide invaluable opportunity for Farrell and the Red Sox to determine starters 6-10 and beyond if one of the projected starting five goes down. In that mix, and also scheduled to begin game work next week, are Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Matt Barnes. "Their readiness for the season, based on the individual," Farrell said. "Coming out of camp, ideally with get a [preference] order for that second tier of starters in the event someone is needed early in the season and who is most available who's pitching the best at the time. That would be ... clearly a goal here in camp." Here's more from Friday's session with Farrell: On the base-running drills conducted by third base coach Brian Butterfield Friday: "He brings the same approach to that aspect of our team, and that's attention to detail, looking for opportunities to take advantage of a situation. Today's drill is one to create an awareness of many different situations or scenarios. It's a matter of kind of getting some of the cobwebs off after a long offseason to some of the finer points and detail of the game." Butterfield was working hard with Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, as they are two newcomers to the Red Sox system and will have to take a good portion of the spring to pick up how Butterfield controls the running game around third base. "There's a little bit of a learning curve to know what his tendencies are at third base, how aggressive he'll be, the positioning in relation to the runner down the third base line towards home plate," Farrell added. "That was the first interaction and introduction to that here today." Run, run, run: It was interesting that Farrell was emphasizing the running game on Friday, as he was asked about the team's efforts to get back to more of a running game that led to a dynamic offense in 2013. That's when the team still had Jacoby Ellsbury and a healthy Shane Victorino. With Mookie Betts and Brock Holt on board, and Victorino returning, Farrell has high hopes that the run game will return like it did in the second-half of last year. "I think if you look back at the first half of last year, it was somewhat a reflection of the personnel," Farrell said. "Jacoby being absent from here, who is as efficient and successful as anyone. Vic being injured. When Mookie came to us, Brock was in the lineup a little bit more. We saw our efficiency and success rate spike up. We would expect that to carry over with Mookie, with Brock, with Vic being back active. Hanley in own right, don't be [surprised]. The body type might not suggest a base stealer but you look at a guy who's got 13-to-17 base stealing capability. But it's an overall part of our approach towards taking advantage of situations and trying to create as much of a dynamic offense as possible." "I think our goal is always to be 80 percent successful. At the point, you're going to be in the positive. Once you drop below that, then we've got to be a little bit more selective." On speedster Quintin Berry: "He's got a definite skill, and that is the ability to steal a base. Even though he came over to us late in 2013, he was on the postseason roster throughout because of that ability. And, in talking with Quintin, a team that the potential to contend is where he's a best fit for that very reason." On leadoff candidates beyond Brock Holt and Mookie Betts: "[Victorino] is a candidate and it's going to be dependent on the opposing pitcher on a given day. Whether or not Rusney is a guy that evolves into that in time [we'll see]. I would say there are other guys ahead of him right now but still it's not going to be solely dependent on speed. On-base [ability] clearly is the primary driver there." Papi the man at first: The Red Sox open the season on the road against the National League Philadelphia Phillies on April 6. Farrell made it clear he has no hesitation using Ortiz at first base in the first series. "No reservations at all, no." Ortiz poked a little fun at Bill Buckner on Friday when he asked fans watching him take grounders, "Remember this?" He proceeded to let a ball pass through his legs. Outfielder Bryce Brentz returned to action Friday, still limited by a knee issue: "We had limited activity today. We're hopeful that he'll be full-go [Saturday]. Today was kind of a progressive step [for him]." Work before play: The Red Sox held their annual charity golf tournament Friday. Before Farrell had the team go through a high-energy workout: "Great energy today. I wouldn't say it's grind it through. This was designed with a shortened day to be a little bit higher intensity. That's where the base-running drill came into play today. I thought it carried over into BP. You're starting to see some relationships forged with a number of a new guys here and continue and some friendly competition within the work we're trying to get done. I thought today, even though it's an abbreviated day, it was a very productive one." David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez put on home run derby in BP: "There's some conversations, some thought. You're looking to match up some young guys with some veteran guys to be able to talk hitting while in their hitting groups. It's not so much reliant on projected lineups but you're trying to blend like hitters and that youth and veteran experience." Red Sox to sit in on domestic violence prevention seminar Saturday morning: "This is new," Farrell said. "It's mandated for everyone to take part in. We as a staff, we're not allowed to be in with players. That's their time. We'll go through that education separately but everyone is required to go through it. This is as much the league as it is the Red Sox. When players understand this is being done for their own benefit, they have to take notice that not only is it important but what are some potential warning signs and how do you avoid maybe ending up in a difficult situation. "Any off-field issue that may arise, there's protocol in place and that's usually in conjunction with MLB. Because this is the first year the educational process that we're going through, I can't speak to a ... detailed treatment or recovery plan to address it with an individual. It's as much prevention and education on the front end and case-by-case on the back end for addressing it." Farrell and his coaching staff, meanwhile, will meet with MLB executives Saturday to discuss rule changes, including pace-of-game issues and concerns.