MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Stacked deck: Red Sox could be holding 5 aces

Stacked deck: Red Sox could be holding 5 aces

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox do indeed have enough starting pitching to go back to the playoffs. In fact, the Red Sox may very well have enough starting pitching to win another World Series. Just because the opinion to the contrary has been repeated a thousand times, that doesn't make it fact.

First, a little background in the wake of Red Sox manager John Farrell announcing Sunday that right-hander Clay Buchholz will get the ball on Opening Day in Philadelphia.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox acquire catcher Leon from Nationals

Strong-armed backstop expected to fill in for injured Vazquez

Red Sox acquire catcher Leon from Nationals

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox have acted quickly to fill their need at catcher, acquiring strong defender Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations on Monday.

Leon packed his bags at Washington's Spring Training facility and headed to Fort Myers to report to Boston.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox expecting bats to come alive in 2015

Healthy Napoli, Pedroia will mesh with key additions Panda, Hanley

Red Sox expecting bats to come alive in 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The number that stood out for all the wrong reasons for the Red Sox last season was the meager slugging percentage of .369, which ranked 14th in the 15-team American League.

The number that stood out in the offseason was $183 million. That represents the guaranteed investment the front office made in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, two key cogs to help make sure Boston's offense looks nothing like it did last year.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

NFL linebacker Magee tackles potential baseball career

Originally drafted in 2012, outfielder reports to Spring Training

NFL linebacker Magee tackles potential baseball career

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brandon Magee has already played 17 games over two seasons in the National Football League. At some point this year, he might play his first baseball game professionally at one of the Minor League affiliates for the Boston Red Sox.

It all depends on what happens with football. The Tampa Bay Bucs released Magee on Tuesday, and he was at Spring Training the next day with the team that still has his baseball rights after taking him in the 23rd round in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Castillo shows off his versatility in comeback victory

Outfielder guns down go-ahead run then scores game-winner

Castillo shows off his versatility in comeback victory

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo had another strong performance in Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Rays in 10 innings.

Playing right field, Castillo ranged in to make a nice running catch in foul ground and fired a strike to the plate to nail Cade Gotta to end the top of the 10th.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox tab Buchholz to start on Opening Day

Porcello will pitch second game and likely the home opener at Fenway

Red Sox tab Buchholz to start on Opening Day

FORT MYERS, Fla. - For Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, who has pitched a no-hitter, made two All-Star teams and won a World Series, pitching on Opening Day for the first time will be another milestone moment in his career.

Red Sox manager John Farrell officially announced on Sunday that Buchholz will take the ball in Philadelphia on April 6. And even if it didn't come as much of a surprise, Buchholz was appreciative to be given the increased responsibility.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With Uehara hurting, Mujica could step up as Red Sox closer

Farrell may also opt for bullpen-by-committee

With Uehara hurting, Mujica could step up as Red Sox closer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Time is running out for closer Koji Uehara to be ready for the start of the season. It now seems likely that Edward Mujica will be the primary closer on Opening Day, with others (Junichi Tazawa, Alexei Ogando, perhaps even Tommy Layne) chipping in when matchups present themselves.

Uehara has been battling a left hamstring strain for the last couple of weeks. Everything had to go just perfectly for the righty to be ready for the start of the season.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vazquez to visit Dr. Andrews for ailing elbow

Vazquez to visit Dr. Andrews for ailing elbow

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will visit Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Wednesday, and he should know then whether he will need right elbow surgery, which would knock him out for an extended period -- perhaps the season.

All Vazquez and the Red Sox have said thus far is that the MRI conducted on Friday showed "something."

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Napoli, Ramirez lead way as Red Sox defeat Rays

Napoli, Ramirez lead way as Red Sox defeat Rays

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Red Sox scored early on Saturday and then added runs late to put a 9-6 win over the Rays on ice at Charlotte Sports Park.
    
The Red Sox jumped to a 6-0 lead, only to see that lead get cut to one run due to a costly error. But they scored once in the sixth and two times in the ninth before dodging a bases-loaded jam in the ninth en route to the win.

Nathan Karns started for the Rays and got into some early trouble after he walked the leadoff batter, Shane Victorino.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Uehara still feels discomfort in hamstring after bullpen

Uehara still feels discomfort in hamstring after bullpen

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Koji Uehara had some lingering discomfort in his right hamstring when he threw a bullpen session on Saturday.

But Red Sox manager John Farrell is still holding out hope the closer will be ready for the start of the season.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hanigan is bummed out about injury to Vazquez

Catcher is prepared to be the starter on Opening Day and beyond

Hanigan is bummed out about injury to Vazquez

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- If Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan gets the chance to start on Opening Day, he will certainly embrace the opportunity.

But on Saturday, Hanigan was bummed out for Christian Vazquez, who is all but certain to start the season on the disabled list with a right elbow injury and faces the possibility of an extended absence.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Barnes still has chance to make Opening Day roster

Barnes still has chance to make Opening Day roster

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Matt Barnes was thrust into a realistic relief situation in Saturday's game against the Rays, coming on with runners on first and second and two out. The prospect delivered, inducing Asdrubal Cabrera into a groundout.

He finished his outing by following a leadoff double with three straight strikeouts.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ortiz: First-person article speaks for itself

Ortiz: First-person article speaks for itself

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- David Ortiz will let his lengthy first-person piece on the Players' Tribune website speak for itself when it comes to his thoughts on performance enhancing drugs.

Ortiz said Saturday that he wrote the column for the fans.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Betts locked in for Red Sox

Center fielder is hitting .487 this spring

Betts locked in for Red Sox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Another day, another stellar showing by Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts.

In Friday's 4-2 loss to the Braves, Betts clubbed a two-run homer as part of a 2-for-3 afternoon that also included a stolen base, a walk and a diving catch in center field.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Buchholz navigating way towards regular season form

Manager John Farrell has yet to name Opening Day starter, but all signs point to right-hander

Buchholz navigating way towards regular season form

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though giving up 12 hits 10 days before Opening Day wasn't exactly what Clay Buchholz wanted to do on Friday, he did take the good out of his outing in the 4-2 loss against the Braves.

The righty had to work hard to navigate through traffic after allowing baserunners in all six frames he pitched in.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Buchholz battles, Betts blasts for Boston

Starter pitches into fifth inning through multiple jams

Buchholz battles, Betts blasts for Boston

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pedro Ciriaco cleared the bases with a three-run double off Clay Buchholz and Julio Teheran completed six strong innings as the Braves claimed a 4-2 win in a rain-shortened game over the Red Sox on Friday afternoon at Champion Stadium. Ciriaco's second-inning double accounted for the only runs Buchholz allowed until his day concluded with Kelly Johnson's leadoff homer in the sixth inning. The only two runs Teheran allowed over 5 ⅔ innings came via Mookie Betts' fourth-inning homer.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

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Mark Bowman and Ian Browne are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vazquez to undergo MRI

Vazquez to undergo MRI

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After playing in a Minor League game on Friday morning, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez was scheduled to undergo an MRI this afternoon to determine if his right elbow is healthy enough for Opening Day.

Vazquez has been slowed for the last couple of weeks by some discomfort in the elbow. At the very least, the MRI should give him some peace of mind that the injury isn't serious.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Castillo turns extra time into walk-off party

Castillo turns extra time into walk-off party

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rusney Castillo's Spring Training has been abbreviated, but no less impressive. The outfielder belted a walk-off homer over the Green Monster against reliever Jake Reed in the 10th inning to lift the Red Sox to a 5-4 win over the Twins on Thursday.

After missing two weeks of Grapefruit League action with a left oblique injury, Castillo has quickly regained his stroke.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox want Cecchini to work on versatility

Top pitching prospect Owens reassigned to Minors camp

Red Sox want Cecchini to work on versatility

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With Pablo Sandoval entrenched at third base for the Red Sox, the club will have prospect Garin Cecchini move around the diamond at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Cecchini, among the latest round of players who were optioned on Thursday, will start getting reps at first base and the outfield, as well as third base.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Uehara's hamstring better, opener still possible

Uehara's hamstring better, opener still possible

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox got an encouraging piece of news on the injury front on Thursday, as closer Koji Uehara took a step forward in his recovery from a right hamstring strain.

"He threw 60 [pitches] from flat ground today," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He'll do that again tomorrow. And our plan is for him to get on the mound on Saturday. Today, there was more intensity to his running, roughly 60-70 percent intensity. Following the off-day [on Wednesday], today was a sizable step forward with Koji."

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ortiz defends legacy regarding PEDs

Red Sox slugger writes adamant defense linking '03 test to over-the-counter supplement

Ortiz defends legacy regarding PEDs

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz still carries the sting from perceptions that resulted from the 2009 report in the New York Times that he was one of 103 players flagged in anonymous survey testing in 2003 for performance-enhancing drugs.

In a lengthy first-person account for The Players' Tribune, the new venture headed by retired Yankees icon Derek Jeter, Ortiz remained adamant that he "never knowingly took steroids" and said the positive test stemmed from taking an over-the-counter product.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Red Sox thrilled to see Big Papi, Napoli back in lineup

Red Sox thrilled to see Big Papi, Napoli back in lineup

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox got two key pieces back in the middle of their batting order on Thursday, as David Ortiz and Mike Napoli both played for the first time in several days.

Ortiz, who had been dealing with dehydration that led to overall soreness and then a bout with the flu, went 0-for-3 with an RBI in his first start since March 16.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Vazquez may not be ready for Opening Day

Red Sox catcher could land on disabled list to start season

Vazquez may not be ready for Opening Day

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox could be without Christian Vazquez on Opening Day, as the catcher has battled right elbow discomfort for the past couple of weeks.

Vazquez will undergo another medical exam on Friday, at which point the Red Sox will determine whether an MRI is needed.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Victorino takes issue with radio hosts' trade comments

Outfielder says he never said he wanted Mookie dealt for Hamels

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shane Victorino was offended by comments from Boston talk show hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti that suggested he'd like to see Mookie Betts traded so that the Red Sox can get Cole Hamels.

"All I said was, 'Hey, if we can get Cole Hamels and it's giving up two or three guys, I'm all for it.' I never said anybody's name," said Victorino. "I never said an individual's name. And these guys are quick to the assumption that, because those were the guys they were talking about, that I was trying to call out my teammate or trying to get him shipped away.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fomer NFL LB Magee switches gear, hits Sox camp

Fomer NFL LB Magee switches gear, hits Sox camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox still don't know quite what they have in the player they took in the 23rd round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. But with linebacker Brandon Magee recently released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they are about to get a much closer look.

The move had not practically even made its way on the NFL transaction wire on Wednesday, and Magee, an outfielder, was already headed to Spring Training to reunite with the baseball team that drafted him three years ago.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chili's skills perfectly suited for role as teacher

Red Sox hitting coach blends experience from playing days with problem solving

Chili's skills perfectly suited for role as teacher

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Some of the best hitting coaches -- and, for that matter, pitching coaches -- were mediocre as active players.

But there are exceptions, like new Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis. The switch-hitter clubbed 350 homers over 19 seasons, to go along with a sturdy OPS of .811.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hitting coach's notes: Chili's take on 5 Red Sox

Hitting coach's notes: Chili's take on 5 Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- During his strong two-year stint as the hitting coach for the Oakland A's, Chili Davis made his mark helping young players have instant success. Now with the Red Sox, Davis works with a more veteran-laden group.

In a recent sitdown with MLB.com, Davis evaluated many of the hitters he's worked with the last several weeks.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Uehara's Opening Day status up in the air

Needing more prep before season, Red Sox closer remains out of game action with tight hamstring

Uehara's Opening Day status up in the air

JUPITER, Fla. -- Four days after John Farrell stated that he "fully" expected closer Koji Uehara to be ready for Opening Day, the manager sounded far less certain as he spoke to reporters before Tuesday's game against the Marlins.

"I think with each passing day he's not in a game, there's growing concern, concern in the sense, 'Will he be ready for April 6?' And we're just working through that," said Farrell.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.