Farrell: Panda must earn starting 3B job

Red Sox's Wright building back up after bout with shoulder bursitis

Farrell: Panda must earn starting 3B job

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On the eve of the official opening of Spring Training, Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke Sunday of the competitions that are to ensue. And there might be no more prominent storyline than Pablo Sandoval's quest to win back his job at third base.

With Yoan Moncada and Travis Shaw gone, it has been widely speculated that Sandoval will be in the starting lineup at Fenway Park when the Red Sox open their season April 3 against the Pirates.

However, Farrell made it clear that nothing will be given to the veteran, who has had a tough initiation to the Red Sox after signing a five-year, $70 million contract in November of 2014.

"Pablo has done a great job of getting himself in better shape," said Farrell. "But what he does on the field and if he can get back to previous levels before signing here as a free agent, that's what we're hopeful of. But it's a spot to be in competition for."

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Brock Holt is Sandoval's main competition, but he is invaluable as a rover who can play seven of the nine positions.

The roster would be most functional and productive with Sandoval getting the majority of at-bats at third base, which is why the Red Sox have a strong rooting interest in his comeback from ineffectiveness and injuries.

Farrell ready for 2017

"I know this," said Farrell. "He's driven, he's highly motivated and he hasn't lost his skills. At least the ingredients are there for him to be a productive player again."

Another noteworthy nugget from Farrell is that knuckleballer Steven Wright is still building his arm strength back up from the right shoulder bursitis that kept him off the mound for the most of last season's stretch run.

 "He's making improvement," Farrell said. "This has probably taken longer than he anticipated, than we certainly anticipated. He's back throwing to 120 feet. He's throwing flat ground right now. He still needs to continue to build some arm strength at this point in camp. He's yet to throw off a mound. But the arm strength he's demonstrated through his throwing program, that has been a steady progression throughout the winter."

Farrell on the pitching staff

"We'll get a better read exactly when everybody goes through their physicals [Monday]. We'll get a better read of arm strengths and accurate measurements overall. If we were to take this next week and continue to build that arm strength before we get him on the mound, I don't want to rule that out, but we'll get a better read on that [Monday]."

The timetable for Wright will determine how much competition there is in the rotation, where there are three quality pitchers vying for the final two spots in Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz.

Rodriguez and Pomeranz have had some health issues of their own. E-Rod had a scare with his right knee while pitching in winter ball and Pomeranz had an experimental stem cell shot for his left elbow after the season.

While Rodriguez was recently given a clean bill of health after a checkup in Boston, the club will have a better idea of Pomeranz's progression during camp when he undergoes his physical.

Farrell on expectations for 2017

Though Rodriguez still has Minor League options, it sounds as if Farrell would prefer for the odd man out in the rotation to be part of the bullpen.

"Hopefully that's the case," said Farrell. "Hopefully we get through Spring Training, and there's nothing unforeseen that's taken place. We've got six quality guys that are vying for those five spots. I think the beauty of this is we return a good team, a team that we're excited about, but yet there's some clear-cut competition here in camp. I think it's going to make for a very strong Spring Training for us."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.