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Cora still evaluating players as camp nears end

Special to MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The key for evaluators who are trying to assemble Opening Day rosters is trying to figure out if Spring Training numbers are credible. It's not an easy task. For a first-year manager, it can be even trickier.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora finds himself in that situation. While most of the spots on Boston's roster are spoken for, Cora will still have some decisions to make before the Red Sox open the season March 29 in St. Petersburg vs. the Rays.

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The key for evaluators who are trying to assemble Opening Day rosters is trying to figure out if Spring Training numbers are credible. It's not an easy task. For a first-year manager, it can be even trickier.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora finds himself in that situation. While most of the spots on Boston's roster are spoken for, Cora will still have some decisions to make before the Red Sox open the season March 29 in St. Petersburg vs. the Rays.

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"I've been learning the last few weeks that it's tough to evaluate players here in Spring Training, because some of them are working on a few things," said Cora. "Others, they're just not good Spring Training hitters, like myself, and others they rake. And you start to say, 'Ooh, is this the real player here?' So you start looking for other things."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

One of those players is Sam Travis, who has a team-high five homers and 16 RBIs, along with a .596 slugging percentage.

"Everyone's saying he's been the MVP of Spring Training for the last three years or whatever," said Cora. "But you see his at-bats -- forget the results -- and you're like, 'He's a good hitter.' The other day, he hits a home run on a first-pitch breaking ball, and then in a 3-1 count, he hits a line drive the other way. That's a sign that he's a good hitter. So you've got to pay attention to other things.

"I think the coaching staff is helping me with that -- they have more experience with this than me -- and obviously the front office. Having [special assistant] Tony [La Russa and Allard [Baird, senior vice president of player personnel], obviously Dave [Dombrowski, president of baseball operations]. We talk on a daily basis and they're helping me to go through this process."

Velazquez looking for consistency

Right-hander Hector Velazquez is one of those players Cora will have to make a decision about in the coming days. Velazquez went 4 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits, including two home runs, with a walk and three strikeouts as the Red Sox lost to the Orioles, 10-7, on Thursday.

Video: BOS@BAL: Velazquez gets Schoop swinging in the 3rd

"Well, obviously, recognizing the two home runs, I thought that I did pitch well," Velazquez said through a team interpreter. "I felt a little bit different today as opposed to my other outings, and I think the results showed. But overall, I felt good and I thought I pitched well."

The Red Sox signed Velazquez out of the Mexican League before the 2017 season. Now, he could be part of the Opening Day rotation.

Before the game, Cora said he would like to see more consistency from Velazquez. After the game, Cora was pleased with what he saw.

"That's the guy we want to see," Cora said.

"He threw the ball with conviction. He was better today. The conditions didn't help him out, but the mix was good, fastballs inside. Seems like he ran out of gas in the last inning. ... It was a great day for him."

This and that

With Thursday's loss, the Red Sox snapped their nine-game winning streak, their longest Spring Training streak since they also won nine in 1981.

Video: BOS@BAL: Vazquez crushes a solo homer to center field

Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with an RBI. J.D. Martinez went 1-for-4 with a run scored, an RBI and his first triple of the spring. Christian Vazquez went 2-for-4 with his second home run of the spring, one RBI and two runs scored.

Video: BOS@BAL: Betts smacks an RBI double off the wall

Joe Kelly and Robby Scott each pitched one-third of an inning in the sixth, giving up three runs each.

"No command," Cora said of Kelly. "Still working on a few things. Velocity's there, but [he] wasn't able to spin the ball the way he wanted and we paid the price."

Pitching updates

Knuckleballer Steven Wright and closer Craig Kimbrel appeared in a Minor League game Thursday against the Orioles at the Red Sox's Spring Training complex.

Wright went four innings, facing 15 batters, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks with a strikeout. He threw 63 pitches, 34 for strikes.

"That's a good step, but the big day is tomorrow," Cora said. "So we'll see how he feels and we'll go from there."

Kimbrel pitched one inning, with three strikeouts -- two swinging, one looking. He threw 12 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who is dealing with a mild flexor strain in his left elbow, is scheduled to pitch two innings in a Minor League game on Friday.

Up next

The Red Sox travel to Tampa, Fla., to face the Yankees on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to make his fifth start of the spring. In 11 innings, he has allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks with eight strikeouts, for a 2.45 ERA. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is slated to start for New York. Fans can catch all the action live on MLB.TV.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Red Sox on Thursday.

Boston Red Sox, Sam Travis, Hector Velazquez