Pedroia swinging bat, 'looks better each day'

Cora: If progress continues, veteran second baseman could begin BP next week

February 27th, 2018

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox second baseman , who will open the season on the disabled list for the first time in his career, is gradually easing back into baseball activities in his comeback from left knee surgery.

"He's actually swinging the bat and taking ground balls, but they have to be right at him, but he looks good," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Like I said before, just him being around, it pushes the guys around him. They see him going through his workouts and he looks younger than he did in October. That's the good thing. Just, upbeat, talking, doing his thing. That's always good.

"Little by little, if he keeps going at this pace, he might take batting practice on the field next week. He's another one, when he comes back, we want him to stay healthy throughout, not only this year, but the upcoming years, so he's starting to absorb that information and he understands where I'm coming from, but I'm happy that he's around and he looks better each day."

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, who re-signed with the Red Sox on Feb. 18, will likely get most of the starts at second base while Pedroia is out.

One thing is clear: Pedroia hasn't lost his ability to entertain people during his rehab.

"He was telling me a story today, he's golfing," said Cora. "Whatever. I don't know [if it is true]. I never thought he was going to be a golfer. He said he beat a week ago, shot an 81. You ask him. I don't believe 75 percent of the things Pedey says, but the other 25 percent I know are good."

In additional injury news, righty reliever will throw his first side session on Wednesday in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Top Red Sox prospect is still slowed by a left oblique injury, and there's no timetable for him to get in a game.

Cora helps set up family reunion

In a special moment for father and son, Mike and Tate Matheny exchanged the lineup card at home plate before the game. It was the second straight spring Tate Matheny got to play a Grapefruit League game against his father, who manages the Cardinals.

Tate entered the game in center field in the top of the seventh. He drew a walk in the eighth.

Tate will also travel to Jupiter, Fla., for Friday's game against St. Louis, when he will DH in and bat leadoff.

"You see family members on the other side, it's special," said Cora. "[Bench coach] Ron [Roenicke] was talking about his situation with his son, how cool it is. You're nervous. Actually, you're pulling for them to succeed. But it was great for them to take the lineup card out and take pictures. I know it was special for Mike, and he was like, 'Thank you, Alex,' and I was like, 'Man.' He would have done same thing for me if that was the case."

"It's special," said Mike Matheny. "How many people have been able to have a moment like that? It's rare. The father-son thing doesn't happen very often. It's priceless."

Camp battles

After retiring all six batters he faced in a start against the Orioles on Sunday, Red Sox lefty is scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen on Wednesday. But Cora made it clear Johnson is still in the mix to be the fifth starter at the beginning of the season. The Red Sox have a vacancy in the back of the rotation with and both coming off offseason knee surgeries and likely won't be ready when the season starts.

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"I know he's got a start coming up, too," said Cora of Johnson. "With him, it doesn't matter if it's out of the bullpen, because we'll extend him. It's not like a one-inning thing or a lefty-lefty thing."

Righty , another candidate for that spot, is starting Wednesday's game against the Pirates. Lefty , who is also part of the competition, will pitch in Boston's split-squad game vs. the Twins on Tuesday evening.

and , two of the righties in competition for spots in the bullpen, both threw scoreless innings against the Cardinals on Tuesday. Hembree worked around a hit with two strikeouts, while Workman had a 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout.

Pitching plans

When starts on the road against the Astros on Thursday, he will be Boston's first regular rotation member to make a start in Spring Training. The Red Sox made a calculated decision to give their starting pitchers a lighter workload this spring. gets the nod on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., against the Cardinals.

Ace Chris Sale will pitch some type of simulated game on Sunday, and Price will do the same on Monday, which is an off-day for the team.

Up next

In addition to Velazquez making his latest audition for the rotation, the Red Sox will have some of their top bullpen arms on display for Wednesday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Pirates. Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and are all on the schedule to pitch. Listen on Gameday Audio.