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Notes: McHugh awestruck; Moreland to return

@Sportsgal25
March 6, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- It was hard to tell who was more pleased about the recent arrangement, Collin McHugh or the Red Sox, after the former signed with the latter on Thursday. On one hand, Boston added a versatile arm that’s expected to provide a veteran presence both on and

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- It was hard to tell who was more pleased about the recent arrangement, Collin McHugh or the Red Sox, after the former signed with the latter on Thursday. On one hand, Boston added a versatile arm that’s expected to provide a veteran presence both on and off the field. On the other, well …

“It’s the Red Sox,” McHugh told reporters in Fort Myers on Friday morning, before Boston fell to Atlanta, 7-5, at CoolToday Park. “It’s one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. I’m a huge baseball fan, so for me that’s kind of a pinch-me moment: To look up and be able to realize you’re playing for this team that’s been around for so long, and so many great players come through here, and you’re like, ‘Wow.’

“You start thinking through all the numbers and guys who put that uniform on. So for me, it’s a really cool opportunity, and I’m hoping I can make the most of it and win some ballgames.”

McHugh has 210 Major League outings under his belt, 119 of them starts. While he won’t be ready to start the regular season as he’s coming off December surgery to “clean up” some damage to the flexor tendon in his right elbow, the 32-year-old is optimistic that he’ll begin a throwing program before camp is out.

“Obviously, the sooner the better, and that’s what I’m working toward,” McHugh said. “I came into camp and signed thinking in my head we were really close and to get going really soon. … I’m always itching.”

Where he’ll fit in is anybody’s guess, and there’s even talk of McHugh bouncing between starting and relief. The righty appeared in 35 games with the Astros last season, eight of which were starts.

For now, McHugh’s only preference is to get back into the action.

“[When I pitch] will be a decision when I’m in throwing shape and ready to go,” he said. “We’ll have some discussions to figure out what the best scenario is for the whole team. I told [Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom] I’m open to doing both, doing either, whichever is going to help win this team more ballgames.”

Moreland ready to roll
Mitch Moreland, who’s been hampered the past several days by right hamstring tightness, is slated to slot in at designated hitter on Saturday against the Blue Jays. Boston’s first baseman left Sunday’s game against the Braves in the first inning after he felt a pull while chasing down a foul ball.

Taking initiative
The Red Sox have pushed their running game this spring, and on Friday their aggressiveness led to four steals.

Most impressive in the bunch was a gutsy double-steal in the third inning, when Boston had runners at the corners with one out. Jarren Duran broke for second base, which drew the throw down from Braves catcher Tyler Flowers and allowed Nick Longhi to hit the gas and beat the throw back to the plate.

“However good we can become [in spring], it allows me to feel more confident what a guy can do,” Boston manager Ron Roenicke said. “So I told these guys to try to push it when they can. It’s still pretty early; I’m hoping as we get on, we even get more aggressive. That’s how you learn.”

Longhi had another highlight-reel-type play in the first inning, sprinting to shallow left field before diving face-first to the ground to rob Nick Markakis of a hit.

“He did a nice job today; Duran too,” Roenicke said. “Duran’s jump was fantastic. You get a little worried when the jump is that good that the catcher may not throw, so he did a good job there."

Up next
Righty Nathan Eovaldi will make his third spring start on Saturday when the Red Sox return home to host the Blue Jays in a split-squad affair. Eovaldi fired three shutout frames against the Braves the last time out and struck out four -- including the side in the second inning -- while allowing just one hit. Boston will also travel to Clearwater to take on the Phillies, with right-hander Tanner Houck getting the nod for that contest. First pitch for both games is set for 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.