Extra Bases

Francona breaks down the workout

Terry Francona finished his daily press briefing a little while ago. He was in a bit of a hurry because he had a meeting with Bob Watson of Major League Baseball.

But we did cull a little information out of the manager:

* Adrian Beltre stepped on a ball yesterday, twisted his right ankle a bit and was held out of drills today. He is expected to be back on the field tomorrow.

“We decided to tell him, ‘Hey, look, just go in the cage.’ He did some running in the cage and some hitting,” Francona said. “We wanted to keep him out drills today. I would be very surprised if he’s not out there tomorrow.”

* Daisuke Matsuzaka threw from 120 feet today for 15 minutes and will repeat that process tomorrow. No word yet when he will get back on the mound, but playing long toss is a step forward.

* The Sox were, well, horrendous stopping opposing base-stealers last season. They caught only 23 of 151 runners, or 13 percent. The league average was 26 percent.

To try and combat that, the pitchers and infielders have worked on pickoffs the last two days. The idea is to make holding runners more of a priority than it was in the past.

“We didn’t do a good enough job, so we need to improve,” Francona said. “You always evaluate what you’ve done — or not done — in the offseason and try to make it better.”

For the Sox, it’s a matter of balancing the need to hold runners and not wanting the pitcher to lose focus on the batter. A slide-step could help hold a runner, but not if it leads to a pitch up in the strike zone.


* The relievers threw live batting practice today an people were buzzing about Daniel Bard.

“John Farrell said he was explosive,” Francona said.

“His ball gets on you in a hurry,” said Ryan Kalish, who had the misfortune of facing Bard. “He threw me a great changeup, too. That would be a heck of a pitch for him.”

The Sox are, in fact, encouraging Bard to improve his change.

“That can be a weapon, especially against lefthanders,” Francona said.

* Jonathan Papelbon, who had a sore back a few days ago, is just fine. He threw BP and looked good. “There wasn’t a lot of effort there and the ball was coming out of his hand (well),” Francona said. “It was great to see. Again, you’re always looking for positives, but it was nice to watch him throw and not have a lot of effort.”

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