PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When Daniel Bard started Sunday's relief outing with three straight high fastballs for a 3-0 count, you might have wondered if he was in for a tough outing.
It was a natural reaction, given all of Bard's inconsistency last season. However, Bard continues to show that he could be on the verge of getting his groove back.
He quickly reset himself during Sunday's outing and wound up pitching a scoreless inning and facing just three batters, striking out one.
"I felt my lower half was rushing a little bit," Bard said. "I got loose out in the 'pen and stood there for about 15 minutes waiting for us to get an out. It happens. It's happened before and it will happen again. Especially in a Spring Training setting, you don't want to wear yourself out trying to stay loose out there. You get your five [warmups] on the field, but sometimes it's not enough to find your release point. I was able to make an adjustment and slow things down a little bit."
Manager John Farrell seems enthused by Bard's progress.
"Once again, he repeated the delivery mechanics that he's been working on. His fastball is more true and he's staying behind the ball more consistently. Another positive day for him," Farrell said.
Focused on defense, Ross' offense appears
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- When catcher David Ross arrived for his first camp with the Red Sox, he knew full well that his top mission was to learn the pitching staff inside and out. If that came at the expense of his offense, so be it.
However, Ross is starting to catch up, so to speak, on the other side of the ball. He blasted his first home run of Spring Training in Sunday afternoon's 6-2 victory over the Rays, a three-run shot that came in the top of the fourth. Ross also hit the ball well in his first at-bat, flying out to deep center.
"Actually, I thought the first ball I hit was actually hit better than that one," Ross said. "The other one carried a little more. Yeah, I was pleased with my at-bats today. I felt a lot more comfortable than I had been. It's a process in Spring Training and I'm getting to know these pitchers well."
And the swing is starting to come, as well.
"You have to do both. You have to put your work in in the cage," Ross said. "I spent some more time in the cage working on things and found some things with the help of [hitting coaches Greg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez]. You know, it's always constant work for me trying to have good at-bats to put myself in a good position to hit the pitches that are thrown. That way, I can have a game plan. It's hard to have a game plan against a pitcher if you don't feel right yourself."
Napoli to play consecutive days Monday, Tuesday
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- First baseman Mike Napoli has had no issues whatsoever with his hips since he started playing in games on March 1. Manager John Farrell will play the slugger in back-to-back games for the first time on Monday and Tuesday.
Napoli has quickly become a favorite on the Red Sox.
"Napoli's been great," said Farrell. "What's been most impressive is how he's handled the findings of all he went through in the offseason and changed positions on a full-time basis. He's very consistent, very steady, a gamer, and he's got very good aptitude. The thing we're finding out first-hand is he's a very good athlete. I don't think we could have asked for anything more so far."
When the Red Sox made all their acquisitions this winter, there was a lot of talk about how players like Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster and Shane Victorino could positively influence the clubhouse. Perhaps not enough was made of the addition of Napoli.
"There's a lot to be said for the people we have in our clubhouse," Farrell said. "Guys want to be here. They like being around one another. They work well together, as far as we've seen so far. That side of it has been outstanding."
Morales looking more likely to start season on DL
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It is becoming less likely that lefty reliever Franklin Morales can get healthy in time to start the season on the active roster. Morales has been bothered by a lower back issue and has pitched just once during Spring Training.
"He's kind of plateaued a little bit," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "While he was feeling some improvement with the medication he was taking, when he was thrown out to 75, 90 feet, he started to feel some tightness there again, so we're backing off him today."
Lefty Craig Breslow is also projected to start the season on the DL, creating an opportunity for other relievers who are on the bubble. Righty Clayton Mortensen's chances of making the team could increase.
"He has a [heck] of an opportunity in front of him," Farrell said. "He's a talented pitcher and someone that we value, because he can do a number of things. If you can come out of the bullpen and throw three innings, that's an important asset to have. That doesn't mean we're looking for a quote-unquote 'long man,' but he can fill that role."
• Righty Alfredo Aceves should re-join the Red Sox within the next couple of days following Team Mexico's ouster in the World Baseball Classic. Aceves was front and center during the fracas that took place against Canada, but manager John Farrell has heard through a trainer that his pitcher wasn't injured.
• Top prospect Xander Bogaerts could also return soon, depending on what happens with the Netherlands in the Classic. But Farrell said the club hasn't decided if Bogaerts will return to Major League camp when he returns or be reassigned to Minor League camp.
• Minor League games start on Wednesday. Shortstop Stephen Drew was out for the third straight day as he recovers from a mild concussion. Drew is still experiencing some symptoms, and will have to take MLB's mandated online test before he is cleared to return to action.
• Catching prospect Christian Vazquez continues to wow the Red Sox with his arm strength and quick release. In Sunday's game, he nailed Brandon Guyer on an attempted steal. Vazquez has caught all four runners who have tried to steal against him this spring, while also picking off a runner.
"He's our closer behind the plate," said Farrell. "It's impressive, isn't it? Yeah, he's been impressive behind the plate."