FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though there have been some encouraging developments from reliever Daniel Bard this spring, the right-hander is still searching for consistency. And that's why there's no assurance at this point that Bard will crack Boston's Opening Day roster.
If there's an area the Red Sox have considerable depth at, it is right-handed relief. Bard also has Minor League options, meaning the club has an easy way of giving him more time to refine his mechanics.
When asked if the decision on Bard was one of the toughest to make in the latter stages of camp, manager John Farrell nodded affirmatively and added, "And we'll take every day that we have available to us to make it. I guess the best way I can answer is we haven't decided yet."
Bard worked in a Minor League game on Friday and was scheduled to pitch in a Grapefruit League contest Sunday against the Phillies. He's on the schedule to pitch again on Wednesday against the Marlins.
In Friday's Minor League outing, Bard walked two batters.
"He felt good warming up," Farrell said. "Obviously the numbers and the overall inning didn't turn out as intended. He missed up to his arm side a number of times. There's still some continuing work to be done there. It's still part of the process to get him back to the reliever we've known him to be."
There are still times Bard takes a batter or two to gain his command of the strike zone.
"To me, part of that evaluation is attacking the first hitter rather than taking a hitter to get into the inning," Farrell said. "To me, that sort of lends to that consistency that we're talking about."
When Bard was at his best, his velocity was in the upper 90s. He was even known to reach triple digits at times. This spring, he's improved from where he was at last year, throwing in the mid 90s for the most part.
"That will continue to increase just by virtue of repeating his delivery and gaining some confidence along the way," said Farrell. "It's important to note that while he's had a couple of less-than [stellar] outings these last two, the three previous were what we had hoped to see. I think it's important to note - and Daniel is well aware of this -- that this isn't a flipping of the switch. This is a step process that he's making solid progress in."
Lack of Ellsbury spring steals doesn't concern Farrell
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Though Jacoby Ellsbury hadn't attempted a stolen base in Grapefruit League action entering Saturday's game, manager John Farrell expects his leadoff man to be plenty active on the bases once the games start counting.
"I think he's a pretty adept base stealer. I don't think he's lost a knack to steal bases or get reads on certain pitchers," said Farrell. "I'm confident he still has basestealing capability."
In a disjointed 2012 season, Ellsbury stole just 14 bases in 74 games.
"He wasn't the guy that stole 70 a couple years ago, but that is strongly being encouraged," said Farrell.
It should be noted that Ellsbury didn't attempt any stolen bases in last year's Spring Training. The most stolen bases he's ever had in a spring? Four, back in 2008.
Drew takes BP on field; Papi continues rehab indoors
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shortstop Stephen Drew continues to take on more activity as he gets past the concussion he sustained on March 7. Saturday's development was that Drew took batting practice on the field.
And how about David Ortiz, who, like Drew, is all but certain to open the season on the disabled list?
"David will continue with his program indoors and then hopefully be able to swing the bat today in the cage. That's the tentative plan this morning," Farrell said Saturday. "There are heavy days and there are light days in terms of what goes on with his conditioning and his overall strength training. That's alternated back and forth. The one thing we'll try to continue to do is have a bat in his hand either off the tee or in soft toss as well."
Running will be a pivotal step for Ortiz, but the Red Sox are being careful not to set target dates.
"We're working off David's tolerance and his ability to ramp up the intensity," Farrell said. "The one thing … what we'd like to see before we break camp, and that would be to see him on the field in some capacity, whether that's running the bases, whether that's taking BP on the field. That would be a reasonable goal, a reasonable step."
Salty won't sit as often against southpaws
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Red Sox faced a left-handed starter last season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was almost always on the bench. He started just seven games against southpaws in 2012.
However, new manager John Farrell doesn't plan on going with a straight catching platoon like Bobby Valentine did last year.
Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter, belted two hits on Saturday from the right side facing Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke.
"I'm prepared to get a good amount. I don't think it's going to be every lefty, this and that, but at least I've showed I can do it enough to where it's not going to be a matchup-type thing," Saltalamacchia said. "That's what I want. I want to get some at-bats and get timing."
It was impossible for Saltalamacchia to do that last year, as he hit .170 with a homer and six RBIs over 53 at-bats as a right-handed batter.
Without question, Saltalamacchia has been stronger from the left side (.774 OPS in 1,107 at-bats) than the right (.591 OPS in 469 at-bats). But more repetitions from the right side could help those numbers improve.
"The one thing he's done, he's gotten some fastballs in some hitter counts and he hasn't missed them," said Farrell. "He's also taken some good swings on first-pitch fastballs against some lefties. So far, so good with that. But he's balanced at the plate. I think just talking to him between at-bats, he feels pretty good about himself at the plate right now, on both sides of the plate."