FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox shortstop and team leader Xander Bogaerts didn't play in the first two Grapefruit League games, and it could be a bit before he makes his debut this spring.
The reason? Right shoulder soreness.
"We do feel that he's progressing right now," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "We shut him down for a little bit. He rushed himself with his throwing program during the offseason. With everything that is going on with the virus, there were a few things that he wasn't able to do in Aruba because of lockdowns or whatever they had going on down there for the right reasons. So it wasn't a regular offseason in that end."
Bogaerts was able to stay as sharp as he could entering camp, all things considered.
"He was able to hit and all that, but his throwing program wasn't perfect," said Cora. "So he rushed himself. He was sore for a few days. We shut him down. He should be back to throwing in the next couple of days. He will take ground balls and all that. The hitting part, he'll be OK in a few days, too."
From there, it will just be a matter of Bogaerts getting back up to game speed and getting his timing.
With all the action the Red Sox are having on the back fields this spring, getting enough at-bats in camp shouldn't be an issue.
"We've just got to be patient. We've got plenty of days," said Cora. "We've got, what, 30 more days? So as of now, we do feel he should be ready for Opening Day."
Cora admitted that his thought on closing games has shifted to a more traditional approach from what it was a couple of years ago.
"It shifted in 2019 when we used [Matt Barnes] as an ace reliever [in high-leverage situations]," said Cora. "I don't think it's possible. I don't think it's as easy as people who talk about it at 5 o'clock on TV. It's very hard. You're facing the best of the best on a daily basis."
In the first half of the 2019 season, Barnes had a burnout effect from always facing top hitters.
Cora would like to have a set closer by Opening Day. Barnes and Adam Ottavino are the top candidates. Cora was pleased to hear that Barnes expressed a desire to take on the job in his media session a couple of days ago.
"Your goals should be to be the best at your position, right? Like I said, we'll go through Spring Training, we'll make a decision and everybody will be OK," Cora said. "At the end of the day, we will need probably multiple guys who can get three outs in the ninth inning, right? Because the closer will be down and the next guy will have to step up. I'm happy he challenged us, right? 'I want to do it!' Now go work, do your thing out there and whatever decision we make, everybody is going to respect it. It's going to be the benefit of the team and we go."
Dalbec staying hot
Though Bobby Dalbec is expected to be the primary first baseman for the Red Sox this season, he got the start at his natural position of third base on Monday.
Dalbec was highly regarded in the Minors for the way he handled the hot corner. Rafael Devers, who had defensive woes last season, is entrenched in that spot for the Red Sox.
"We have to keep the versatility there," said Cora. "He's a good defender at third base. He's a good defender at first base. Raffy is going to need off-days. We might put [Dalbec] there. We've got Marwin [Gonzalez]. We've got Enrique Hernández. We've got [Christian Arroyo]. So we have alternatives, but whenever I have a chance, especially here in Spring Training, for him to play third base, he will play third base."
Arroyo will get 'every chance'
Arroyo, who impressed the Red Sox at the end of last season when he got some playing time at second base, is out of Minor League options. With that in mind, he will get a long look this spring for the final roster spot.
"He made some strides offensively last year," said Cora. "He's a good defender at second base. I watched a lot. He's able to turn the double play, but versatility is going to be a factor -- and he knows it. We do believe he can handle short. He can make all the routine plays, and let's see how much the offense is going to be a part of his game.
"But yesterday he had two good at-bats, drove one to center field. Physically, he's a lot better than where he was last year. He's going to have every chance to make this team. "
Michael Chavis is the player competing with Arroyo for that final spot on the bench. Chavis, once Boston's No. 1 prospect, does have options. Cora has made it clear what Chavis needs to improve on.
"Consistency. Yesterday he put a good swing on a good pitch [for a homer]," Cora said. "It's one of those with Michael, we know what he can do. We know the type of hitter he is. He needs to close down some holes from his swing. Like I've been saying all along, strikeouts, yeah, are just an out in certain situations, but the other situations, we need to make contact."
Cora said that Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, who arrived late to Spring Training after having visa issues, has been cleared to participate in camp after passing all of his COVID-19 related protocols.
That leaves left fielder Franchy Cordero, who is on the COVID-19 injury list, as the only player not in Fort Myers.
"Franchy is on his way here today," Cora said. "He's flying today. He'll go through the protocols and the intake and all that stuff. Probably that takes, what, two days, hopefully? Maybe three?"
When the Red Sox play their second straight home game on Tuesday, lefty Martín Pérez will make the start, live on MLB.TV. Rule 5 Draft pick Garrett Whitlock will see his first action out of the bullpen. Minor League righty Josh Winckowski, who was acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade, is scheduled to pitch. First pitch against the Rays is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Since the game will also be nationally televised on ESPN, it will go nine innings.