Notes: Richards' delivery, Barnes, Bogaerts

March 7th, 2021

VENICE, Fla. -- Garrett Richards is currently in a fight with his mechanics. And until he finds them and syncs them up, you might see more outings like the last two, in which he labored.

Boston’s new No. 3 starter struggled in his second outing of Spring Training, giving up three hits, four runs and four walks while striking out two in his team’s 5-4 loss to the Braves on Sunday.

“Out of his delivery. Obviously we don’t like the walks,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “But like I told him after the outing, I asked him, ‘Are you healthy?’ He’s like, ‘Yep,” and that’s all that matters right now. Obviously we have to make adjustments, but we’re getting to know the individual.

“It’s a different delivery. There’s a few things that [pitching coach Dave Bush] has noticed in the two outings. It’s just a matter of, 'Keep working hard.' We’re good with the stuff. He doesn’t like the walks, we don’t like the walks. Just keep building and getting ready for opening week.”

Due to the high volume of work in his two innings, Richards didn’t come out for his scheduled third inning. In his debut earlier in the week, Richards struggled through the first inning, but he was sharp in the second.

While there is obviously more scrutiny on Richards this spring as the new guy who comes in on a one-year, $10 million contract, the veteran isn’t worried about his Grapefruit League struggles.

“The results aren’t what we wanted them to be. But we worked out of some jams today, had some weak contact that ended up falling, had some first-pitch hits I gave up,” said Richards. “That’s baseball. But I’m healthy, moving in the right direction, continuing to get my timing with my lower and upper half synced up. That’s been the issue so far. And then worrying about my front side. Not clearing out too early. It’s all mechanical stuff right now.”

Richards, who is glad to be healthy again, isn’t surprised that mechanics are his top issue at the moment. He just hopes to get everything in good working order by the time the season starts.

“Yeah I’ve been in mechanic mode for about five years now with all the injuries I’ve had,” Richards said. "Like I said, I’m just trying to get back out there and get back into my rhythm and throwing the ball the way I know how to throw it. It’s taken a little time with all the injuries I’ve had and years of baseball I’ve missed. So yeah, I’m trying to get that back to where I was before."

Aspiring closer pinpoint in first outing

Righty Matt Barnes has made it clear that he wants to be the closer this season. He took a step toward that goal with a machine-like outing Sunday.

In his first outing of Spring Training, the veteran of Boston’s bullpen mowed through the Braves in a 1-2-3 inning, getting a groundout and two strikeouts, one of which came against Ronald Acuña Jr.

“That was impressive,” said Cora. “That was good. Velocity was up, I think a tick above last season, which was a good sign. Made some adjustments and it was a good one for Barnesy. We don’t have to worry too much about him. Physically, he’s always in shape. This is a guy, just like Adam [Ottavino], we’re going to take our time, and they know what they need to be ready for the start of the season.”

“Felt good,” said Barnes. “I felt really comfortable out there. I felt like the mechanics were working well. A couple high fastballs got away from me, but overall, the ball was coming out [well]. Good command of the fastball. The breaking ball -- I was really happy.”

Though he wants that responsibility of the ninth inning, it isn’t on Barnes’ mind when he takes the mound in Grapefruit League games. Ottavino seems to be his top competition for the job.

“No, not on my mind at all. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I’ll be judged on eight outings in Spring Training more than the last four or five years of work,” Barnes said. “Obviously if there was something drastic -- if I was coming out throwing 88 [mph], that’s probably a topic for a different day. But if I come out showing the stuff that I’ve had my entire career, I don’t think the eight or nine outings in Spring Training in which I’m building up, looking to get ready for the season, are going to define the decision of what they want to do.”

Barnes got his first chance to be a full-time closer for the final month-plus of last season and he converted nine of 12 save opportunities, while notching a 3.38 ERA in his final 15 appearances.

Cora isn’t ready to tip his hand on who his closer will be.

“There’s no frontrunners here,” Cora said. "Those guys, they’re going to build up, they’re going to be ready and we’ll make a decision toward the end of camp."

Xander could play within week
Though shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been held back in Spring Training by soreness in his right shoulder, Cora is confident that he will be ready by Opening Day.

The coming week is a big one for Bogaerts, as he plans to ramp up.

“He’s going to throw again today. He’s going to hit today, off-day tomorrow,” said Cora. “Baseball activities, and he’s supposed to take batting practice on Tuesday, so as soon as he starts getting comfortable there, he starts DH-ing probably over the weekend.

“And as far as playing short, he’s doing everything as far as taking ground balls, you saw that yesterday. Just the throwing part of it, we have to be careful with, but we feel very comfortable where he’s at right now; so he told me, ‘April 1, I have to face this lefty throwing 95, 96 [mph] and I’m not going to be ready,’ and I said, ‘You’ll be ready, there’s plenty of at-bats.”’

Caution on off-day
While Cora knows how much the Red Sox need the off-day that is coming up Monday, he wants all of his players to be mindful of following all of the COVID-19 protocols.

“There's a few things as far as the guidelines that you can do and you cannot do. And you just got to stick to them,” Cora said. “And I think overall, they've done an outstanding job. And I'm glad that they've been disciplined with that.

“Like I told you guys, and that's what I told them, when we talked before everything started, it was, ‘You take care of this, the baseball side of it, we will be fine, but we have to be healthy.' We have to take care of us and we've done an amazing job with that, but you know, it's an off-day. ... I don't know, hopefully [it] rains and it's cold tomorrow here and there's no temptation of going to the beach or going to outdoor restaurants or whatever. So yeah, I'll be praying for that tonight.”