Look who has reported early to Red Sox Spring Training

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

Pitchers and catchers don't report for weeks yet, but maybe the acquisition of David Price has put a sense of urgency into the Red Sox pitching staff.

Last week Rob Bradfo posted a small article with video of the following already in Fort Myers, weeks ahead of the February 18 reporting date for pitchers and catchers:

It should not surprise many that Barnes and Workman report early. They are looking to impress and capture any spot they can in the rotation or bullpen having bounced up and down over the last few years.

Porcello is a bit of a surprise to see there so early, but expect him to be focused on a big bounce back year. Without any pressures around this offseason in regards to not being a free agent, Porcello was enjoying being able to focus on the coming season.

One hopes he can secure the third or forth slot in the rotation.

Then there is Buchholz, who has a new plan this year to try and reach a 200 innings season. So far the starting pitcher has yet to be that horse you expect from your second slot in the rotation, as his innings totals over the last few years have shown:
  • 189 1/3 innings  (2012)
  • 108 1/3 innings (2013)
  • 170 1/3 innings (2014)
  • 113 1/3 innings (2015)
The big secret this year? Buchholz has not started throwing any bullpen sessions leading up to his arrival at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers. Not only that, it is on the advice of John Lackey that he has changed this pattern for the coming 2016 season.

“In my mind I was thinking I was trying it a little bit different this year,” he explained. “Instead of ramping up and throwing bullpens in the offseason I’m going to get to camp around the first or second. I knew Porcello was going to be here, and I knew a couple of catchers were going to be here, too. Given our reporting date is the 18th for pitchers and catchers I can throw the same amount of bullpens being here rather than being in Texas and not being around any of the guys. I felt like this route was going to work well for me this year."

“I tried to pick a lot of guys brains. I work out with John Lackey in the offseason and he’s found his niche as far as how he goes about what he does in the offseason going into camp. We played catch for about the last month. He might throw a couple of bullpens before camp, but at this point and time he hasn’t thrown any either and he sort of eases his way into it. That was the approach I sort of thinking about taking. I talked to Johnny Farrell about it over the phone, and they were a little bit worried me coming into camp without throwing."

“Two and a half weeks from right now to throw my four or five bullpens. I can throw one every three days and it puts me on track. I can throw toVazqy, and get reacquainted with him. I don’t feel like it’s a different route, it just started at a different time.”

He also had strict instructions from GM Dave Dombrowski around rest, workouts and throwing program leading up to Spring Training.

“I sat down and talked to Dave before the season was over. It’s pretty much black and white what he was talking about,” Buchholz said. “When I sat down and talked to Dave it was more so of knowing what I had to do going into the offseason, taking the right amount of time off, being pretty strict on the workouts five days a week, and that’s what I did. I feel like I got stronger in a couple of different ways that I wasn’t the last couple of years. It was a good offseason for me. The one thing that was different this year is that I focused more on legs this year than I have the last four or five years. I feel like everything comes from the ground up. If my legs are in shape I don’t have to worry about my legs giving out in the first couple of bullpen. I just have to worry about arm strength, and that’s a good thing.”

Then there is Rodriguez who had some pitch tipping issues last season and has spent some time working that out of his system in Fort Myers. He insists it is a thing of the past.

“When the season is done, I just said, ‘Now I’ve got it,'” Rodriguez said at JetBlue Park. “I watched all my videos, everything I do, and I say, ‘Now I fixed it.’ And I feel great with everything. If you remember the videos they showed, it was my hands, it was my head. Now I’ve just got one mechanic and that’s what I’m going to stay with.”

He was helped by most of the starting staff from last season, getting tips from Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Joe Kelly.

It must have been a surprise to him how good Major League hitters are at picking up such small subtle tipping moves, a problem he never had in the minors.

“In the minor leagues, they don’t have those kind of cameras, they don’€™t have video rooms,” he said. “They don’t have nothing. If they see it, it’s just a hitting coach in the minor leagues saying, hey, he’s doing this. Sometimes he’ll do this. But in the minor leagues, there aren’t those kind of hitters. (Big leaguers) can see, ‘Oh, he’s coming with a changeup,’ they can hit it pretty good, because they know where the ball is going to move.”

It is a good sign that the heart of the rotation, let's say slots two through five are all early to Fort Myers. It shows a sense of urgency for 2016 season and a desire to be as ready as they can be when pitchers and catchers report later this month.

Just one questions, are you wondering why Joe Kelly has not shown up early with the rest of his battery mates?

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

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