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Cora not rushing into naming closer

Pearce, Swihart expected to return this week
@IanMBrowne
March 3, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox Nation wanted to know who the team’s closer would be weeks, if not months, ago. But the man who ultimately will make that decision is in a much more patient and open-minded frame of mind. Red Sox manager Alex Cora is perfectly willing to

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox Nation wanted to know who the team’s closer would be weeks, if not months, ago. But the man who ultimately will make that decision is in a much more patient and open-minded frame of mind.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is perfectly willing to allow Spring Training to run its course. There will be constant evaluations and meetings. And there have been ongoing discussions on whether there will be a set closer, or if the club will instead be more flexible with the approach.

“We know who [the candidates] are. We know the stuff. It’s just about the plan,” Cora said. “The plan will be out there on March 28 [on Opening Day]. Spring Training, you get people out in the third inning, the fourth inning. Does it tell you that much?

“It’s just a matter of seeing what we’re going to do as an organization. What plan we’re going to do. How comfortable are we with a [set] closer or mixing it up, or getting people out in certain situations? We still have a lot of days to see how we feel about it. I don’t think, with the guys that we have, we need them to go out there and strike people out or get people out. We just need them to be ready for March 28.”

If the Red Sox go with a set closer, Matt Barnes seems like the most logical candidate. He has the most proven track record, and the veteran right-hander finished strong late last season and into the playoffs.

Ryan Brasier is another candidate, but he’s been limited so far in Spring Training due to a right pinkie toe infection. Cora thinks he will be ready to start the season.

Tyler Thornburg, Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman are other pitchers who will be asked to get big outs. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was projected to be a big part of the mix in the bullpen, but he remains limited from the left knee that has been giving him trouble for nearly two years.

“Like I’ve been saying all along, we have people that are going to get people out late in games,” Cora said. “We’ve just got to make sure everyone is healthy and ready to go for March 28. If that’s the case, we’ll go one way or another, but I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do.”

For now, Cora will keep that idea to himself.

Swihart to return soon

Catcher Blake Swihart, who left camp for the weekend to attend the funeral for his brother Romell Jordan in New Mexico, will likely be back in Fort Myers on Monday.

“He texted me yesterday. I got him in the lineup on Tuesday,” said Cora. “I just texted him in the morning, ‘Hey, you’re in the lineup on Tuesday if you want to.’ We’ll see. Probably, he’ll fly in tonight, that’s the plan. But if not, we understand.”

World Series MVP to debut Wednesday

In past years, Steve Pearce has been slowed by injuries suffered during Spring Training, so the Red Sox have gone at a slower pace with him during this camp. Pearce then became ill a few days ago. But he’s now back on his feet and expected to make his Grapefruit League debut in Wednesday’s home game against one of his former teams, the Pirates.

Chavis belts another

Michael Chavis continued his early Grapefruit League power surge on Sunday when he unloaded for his fourth homer (in 17 spring at-bats) during the Red Sox's 9-7 win over the Twins on Sunday.

The right-handed-hitting masher is proving why he is the No. 1 prospect in Boston's farm system.

His latest blast was to straightaway center.

"I wouldn't say unexpected," Chavis said of all the homers. "Whenever I'm up there I'm trying to do damage, and I'd say power is part of my game and it plays a big role. I wouldn't say I’m surprised or anything like that. It's nice to see the results come, for sure."

Though the Red Sox don't have a roster spot open for Chavis, he is making a strong case for an early-season callup if the club suffers an injury at first base, third base or designated hitter.

"It's hard to say what they think," Chavis said. "I haven't really had any conversations with them besides, 'Congratulations, keep doing what you're doing,' stuff like that. I’m not sure exactly what they're thinking, but I'm going out there with the mindset that I'm trying to earn a spot, whether it's at a position or as a sub late in the game or whatever it is."

Up next

The Red Sox will spend the next two days on the east coast of Florida playing against the Mets on Monday and the Nationals on Tuesday. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will make his second start of Spring Training against the Mets, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Christian Vázquez will all be in the starting lineup. Top hitting prospects Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec also will be on the trip.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.