Back improving, Victorino hopes to play Friday
MRI reveals lower back inflammation; outfielder plans to take BP Thursday
TORONTO -- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino had an MRI that revealed inflammation in his lower back near a disk, but the results were otherwise positive as he continues to progress from the back injury that has sidelined him since Thursday.
Victorino remains optimistic that he can avoid a trip to the disabled list and is aiming to return to the lineup against Texas on Friday.
The right fielder took soft toss and did some more intense work in the batting cages Wednesday, a day after hitting off a tee, and intends to participate in batting practice before Thursday's contest in Toronto. That will be a big test and Boston will likely make a decision about putting him on the DL depending on how he responds.
"It's getting to a point where a decision is going to have to be made," Victorino said. "It's out of my hands, obviously. Every day it has progressed in a positive direction. ... I'm happy and satisfied with that."
Victorino injured himself on a swing, but said that he has not experienced any pain during light hitting drills or exercises since. While he said there has been no setbacks, he can still feel some discomfort in his back when he makes certain movements.
The frustrating part, Victorino said, is that he has not suffered from back issues before, but he also views that as a positive since there is nothing to suggest this injury is anything but an isolated incident.
"It's not fun to sit here every night having to watch. I'm getting antsy," Victorino said.
Based on Major League Baseball rules, a team can backdate a player's time on the DL 10 days after the initial injury if that player has not appeared in a game, so the Red Sox still have more time, if needed.
"Whether or not he's coming out of batting practice Thursday and is available for [Thursday] night's game remains to be seen, but optimistically, we are looking at Friday in Texas," manager John Farrell said.
Big Papi extends hitting streak to 22 games
TORONTO -- Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz extended his career-high hitting streak to 22 games, which dates back to July 2 of last season, with a double off Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle to lead off the sixth inning of Wednesday's 10-1 Boston victory.
Ortiz drove a 1-1 offering from Buehrle off the wall in left field and slid into second base, narrowly beating left fielder Melky Cabrera's throw.
The veteran slugger has hit safely in 10 straight games to begin the year, which is his longest hit streak to start a season. Coco Crisp, in 2002, was the last Red Sox hitter to begin a season with a 10-game hit streak.
Ortiz was seen before the contest hitting the ball to the opposite field, which is a part of his game manager John Farrell said has improved in recent years. By using all fields, Ortiz forces teams to lessen the use of a defensive shift on him or pay the price for leaving the left side of the infield open.
During Spring Training, Farrell noticed that Ortiz was consistently working on hitting the ball everywhere, he said.
"He knows he has power, obviously, it's more about plate coverage and hitting ball where it's pitched," the skipper said.
Farrell said Ortiz can track the ball deep in the zone, something that allows him to go the other way and has made him a more complete and dangerous hitter.
"He's obviously strong enough to drive the ball to all fields," Farrell said. "I think that is one of the main reasons he has become so good against left-handed pitching."
The only Major Leaguer to record a hit streak longer than 22 games while playing exclusively as a DH is Paul Molitor, who hit safely in 39 consecutive contests in 1987.
Ortiz is batting .487 with three homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.409 OPS.
"David's presence can't be [overstated] in any way," Farrell said.
Salty's error result of contact with ump's mask
TORONTO -- A bizarre play in Tuesday night's contest against the Blue Jays had people still talking about it the following day.
With Edwin Encarnacion at the plate, after starter Jon Lester loaded the bases with none out in the third inning, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia attempted to pick off Jose Bautista at first base, but threw the ball wide of the bag and into right field, which allowed two runs to score and put the Blue Jays in front, 3-0.
After the game, Saltalamacchia told reporters the reason the throw was so off line was because he made contact with home-plate umpire Clint Fagan's mask on the throw. A replay on the NESN broadcast supports Saltalamacchia's claims.
Saltalamacchia, however, didn't speak up about the incident until after the fact because he didn't know the rule, which prevented manager John Farrell from discussing the play with Fagan at the time. Farrell and Saltalamacchia both spoke with Fagan an inning later, but were told that the backstop made contact on his follow through, which wasn't the case.
The rule book states that it should have been called a dead ball since contact was made with the umpire. It turned out to be a pivotal play as the Red Sox lost by two runs, 9-7.
Farrell said that during Spring Training the Red Sox bring in an outside resource named Rich Marazzi, who also works with a few other teams, to give seminars on rare plays that could potentially happen in a game, and, therefore, Saltalamacchia should have known the rule. Marazzi also consults the Red Sox during the year on specific plays when needed.
But Farrell didn't wipe his hands clean of blame, either.
"You always look for the player's reaction inside of a situation unfolding," he said. "I take that on my part because we are sitting right here and saw the errant throw and, let's face it, I think Salty's a pretty accurate thrower and for a ball to be thrown that errantly, I feel something came into play."
Farrell said what typically happens in a situation like that is the umpire will immediately call time and convene upon contact with a player, but that didn't happen Tuesday.
The skipper was not satisfied with the way Fagan saw it.
"He felt like it was the elbow that made contact with the mask after he released the baseball, which, still physically, I don't know how that could have happened," Farrell said. "But that was the explanation."
Saltalamacchia said he hadn't seen the replay yet and had no interest in doing so because nothing could be done about it going forward.
Farrell firm believer in weighted ball program
TORONTO -- A weighted ball program that reliever Steve Delabar introduced to the Blue Jays last year has caught the eye of Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The program, designed by Jamie Evans, helped Delabar gain four-plus mph on his fastball and is now something Farrell's youngest son, Luke, has turned to. Luke Farrell has also seen his velocity increase four mph and he's now able to hit 94 on the radar gun.
Farrell, Toronto's former manager, brought in Evans to talk to the Blue Jays last year during a road trip in Baltimore. After hearing what Evans had to say and the results that Delabar got, Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil also turned to it and has enjoyed an uptick in velocity, too.
It's a program that Farrell has brought up with people in the Red Sox organization.
"We've had discussions, not to implement on a broad scale, but I think it's definitely worth maybe a pilot program to take a closer look at it," Farrell said. "There is a lot of validity to it."
Farrell said that Evans pretty much guarantees that he can help a pitcher gain at least four mph. While Farrell wasn't sure if it was something that organizations would start implementing in the future, he said it's certainly getting the attention of many.
As more players start turning to it and reaping the rewards, it will help bolster the program's credibility. Then, Farrell said, that's when an organization could look to apply it full scale.
Some players are skeptical of throwing with weighted balls due to injury concern, but Farrell said there are added components to Evans' program that make it much safer. Players perform mock or partial throws with the weighted baseball, which is placed in a sock, and hold it in a position on a follow through to help increase strength -- one of the differences from simply throwing with a heavier ball, Farrell said.
The program is designed specifically for each person based on age, height and weight.
"[Luke] was tested the same day Brett [Cecil] was to go through the initial assessment down there [in Baltimore]," Farrell said. "The benefits that both Brett and Delabar have experienced -- there is validity to the program."
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.