Allen Craig is looking for a bounce-back season in 2015. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Red Sox notes: Allen Craig may have cracked code; Joe Kelly throwing new pitch

Rob Bradford
March 01, 2015 - 9:08 am
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Allen Craig is very cautious when discussing what went wrong in 2014, and how it might go right in '15. But he is offering hints that the form which allowed for a combined .863 OPS from 2011-13 is on the verge of returning. "It feels a lot better in cage work and batting practice," Craig said following Sunday's workout. "As far as mechanics and strength, I feel like I'€™m in a really good spot right now. "I'€™m always cautious talking about it because you don'€™t make excuses for anything, but there are reasons for certain stuff. I think that was kind of my job this offseason, to figure it out. A lot of things started with some leg strength. When you have a weakness with something you try and compensate for it and try to find ways to get the job done, then you find yourself doing things you haven'€™t done before. This offseason was a good chance to look at some video and really physically mechanically to get my body in the best spot to hit the ball hard. I'€™m still working on it, but I feel like I'€™m in a better spot." Craig's comments came immediately after a round of similar optimism from Red Sox manager John Farrell. "There'€™s much more life in the bat," he said. "He'€™s come into camp in great shape. The foot isn'€™t an issue at this point and we don'€™t anticipate it to be. We just see increased core strength and better bat speed. I know it'€™s just BP but he looks different than we got him. And let'€™s face it, the shock of the trade is in the rear view mirror now, moreso than when he came to us." While Craig didn't want to get into specifics, he insinuated that the foot injury he endured in '13 had altered various elements of his lower half. The end result of the injuries, and compensation for the ailments, might have led to a '14 in which he finished hitting just .128 with a .425 in 29 games with the Red Sox. And after hitting "a ton in the offseason" at his Southern California home, the first baseman/outfielder feels the combination of improving mechanics and strength is paying off. "I think any good hitter will tell you the legs are an important part of the swing and learning how to use them properly is really important," he said. "I'€™m still the hitter that I am. Just some tweaks and giving myself a better chance to succeed. I'€™m not fighting myself." -- A lot was made of Joe Kelly's BP pitching Saturday, thanks in part to the reaction of the hitters. But for the pitcher, the true takeaway was his implementing a pitch he hasn't thrown on a regular basis throughout the righty's professional career. "I'm throwing four-seamer. That'€™s what I was working on yesterday. It was coming out good," he explained. "I never threw it. This is the first time trying it. I thought I would give it a try. It'€™s harder. It gets on hitters quick." So if you start seeing the high-90's fastball on a regular basis from Kelly, as opposed to his well-publicized mid-90's sinker, you'll know the four-seamer is in the repertoire. "I threw a four-seamer in college, that'€™s about it," he explained. "We'€™ll see what the velocity comes out at. It'€™s a little bit harder. Just give it a try. Who knows? I might have well try it if I hadn'€™t tried it." -- A lot of outfield talk in Farrell's meeting with the media Sunday, with the manager offering praise for both Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts when asked about each player. On Castillo: "The one thing that shows up in more fluidity and looseness in his body and I think like I said that'€™s come through in games played. His English continues to improve so the communication on responsibilities to defense are becoming more readily comprehended but we don'€™t take that for granted anyway that'€™ll always be translated at least at this point but just getting to know more about him as a person. You come to find out there'€™s a highly intelligent guy here that has gained a level of comfort even though it'€™s been a short period of time, he'€™s settled in well." On Betts: "The first time he came to us, which I think at the time was about 30 games played at the minor league level (in the outfield), it improved each of the three times he was brought back to the big leagues and we anticipate it continuing to refine itself in camp so he'€™s a good athlete. He asks a lot of great questions. The aptitude is clearly there. In time, he'€™s going to be a very good center fielder." Farrell explained that other than Hanley Ramirez, those slated to get time in left field include Daniel Nava, Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley and Craig. -- The Red Sox attempted a new drill at the end of the workout called "over the line," which was supposed to simulate a game played when you don't have enough players to cover both sides of the field. With a batter up, there are two infielders who are usually planted on one side of the diamond. The goal is to work on hitting against shifts, although there proved to be a few bumps in the road: 1. The infielders started getting competitive, attempting to place on one each side of second base; 2. David Ortiz simply hit his BP offering over the roof in right field. "Just some awareness," Farrell said. "So many shifts that we'€™re facing now. To begin to think about it, there'€™s a competitive spirit inside it. but you'€™ll see us do more of that going forward." -- If you're wondering what is taking so long for the Yoan Moncada signing to become official, understand that this is the normal process for such an extensive physical (taken in Fort Myers and Boston). The expectation is that any announcement would come in the middle of the week, at the earliest.