FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It is only two Grapefruit League starts, but Red Sox manager John Farrell already sees signs that ace Jon Lester is positioning himself for a bounce-back season.
"When you look at the lower half in his delivery, he's working downhill much more consistently," Farrell said after the Red Sox's 5-2 win against the Pirates on Friday night. "If you look at video [contrasting] any time midseason last year 'till now, you'll notice a very different lead leg.
"That's been able to allow him to work from kind of a high to low type trajectory through the strike zone rather than collapsing on the backside and pushing the fastball through the zone. And that's what's allowed him to throw the ball down at the bottom of the zone."
Against the Pirates, Lester fired three innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, walking one and striking out two.
Lester doesn't dispute the notion that the return of Farrell -- his pitching coach from 2007-10 -- is comforting.
"Yeah, it's been good so far," said Lester. "It's nice having John here, just because of all the things that we worked on in previous years here. It's kind of weird that he remembers them all. He remembers all the little keys that stand out in my mind when we're trying to work on stuff. He's really helped Juan [Nieves] transition really nicely into so far a really good pitching coach."
De La Rosa an early standout in camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rubby De La Rosa will start the season in the Minor Leagues mainly due to the fact he is still rebuilding his arm strength after Tommy John surgery, but he clearly looks like a Major League pitcher, and it's fairly easy to envision he will help the Red Sox before the 2013 season ends.
De La Rosa looked in complete command on Friday night in his relief outing against the Pirates, allowing one hit over two scoreless innings and striking out two.
"I feel good. I feel very comfortable," De La Rosa said.
Though De La Rosa typically hits the mid 90s with his fastball, that is hardly what stands out about him.
"Most impressively is the feel for his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup," manager John Farrell said after the Red Sox's 5-2 win. "A couple of 3-2 counts, right-handed, left-handed, he's not only willing [to go to the secondary] but he goes to that pitch with confidence, and when you combine that with the power, it's really a rare combination.
"And just with two outings in Spring Training, he's not been afraid to go to any pitch in any count. It's been very encouraging the way he's thrown the baseball."
It's already evident why De La Rosa was viewed as the key piece who came back from the Dodgers in the blockbuster for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.
Former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez has made De La Rosa a pet project during this Spring Training.
"I think the most important thing is he feels great physically," said Farrell. "He's been a student around [pitching coach] Juan [Nieves] and Pedro. He's a very good-looking young pitcher."
Middlebrooks gets another day to rest wrist
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After another day to think about it, manager John Farrell opted to wait until Saturday to re-insert third baseman Will Middlebrooks into the Red Sox's starting lineup.
Middlebrooks gave everyone a scare -- including himself - when he exited Wednesday night's game with discomfort in his right wrist, which he fractured last August.
It turned out to be nothing significant, perhaps just the breaking up of scar tissue when Middlebrooks took a check swing.
Farrell had planned on putting Middlebrooks back in the lineup for Friday night's game, but he decided to be more conservative.
"We just wanted to give him one more work day," said Farrell. "I think as he came out of that game, the way he felt, I think we're all best served by just another day of normal pregame, full BPs, on-field work, and right now, he's in the lineup [Saturday]."
Middlebrooks was still encouraged that the incident wound up being nothing more than a scare.
"I'm fine," Middlebrooks said. "No worries."
Meanwhile, left fielder Jonny Gomes was also out of the lineup for a second straight game after running into the wall in Sarasota on Wednesday. Gomes needed three stitches in his left kneecap.
"[He's] still probably another couple of days away," said Farrell. "We want to make sure that the laceration has a chance to start to close up and not prolong anything there. You talk to him, he wants to play tonight, but we're still in a day to day thing with him."
Buchholz set for Saturday debut against Twins
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right-hander Clay Buchholz, a key to the Red Sox's starting rotation, will make his first Spring Training start on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 ET against the Twins.
Buchholz tweaked his right hamstring Feb. 12 during the club's first pitchers' fielding practice, which is why he was a little behind schedule.
The Red Sox need a little more consistency from Buchholz this season.
"[He needs] better command at the bottom of the zone," said manager John Farrell. "Games [I] watched early in the year, it looked like he had a little difficulty getting the ball down in the zone. That's where a lot of those home runs came from.
"As he got into his delivery and was a little more aggressive in the strike zone with his stuff and his location, that's where you saw the late action come in more consistently."
Buchholz incorporated a splitter into his repertoire last season, but the Red Sox don't want him to become too reliant on that pitch.
"He went to the split because he wasn't able to get his changeup down in the zone," Farrell said. "So it was a chance to keep his fingers on the ball, rather than to push it, and to finish with some downward action. I think by virtue of his challenges, he discovered another pitch, but we want to guard against having too many and by virtue of that sacrificing having three really defined and refined pitches."
Breslow to start throwing program on Saturday
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lefty reliever Craig Breslow, slowed this spring by weakness in his shoulder, will begin a throwing program on Saturday.
The program will start with work on flat ground and progress from there.
Is there still time for Breslow to build up in time to be on the Opening Day roster?
"As of today, yes," said manager John Farrell. "If we get further into camp, we'll have to adjust accordingly. Most importantly is that we respond to how he feels and not be totally attached to the date."
Aceves has been 'model citizen' in camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- How has Alfredo Aceves been since an eye-raising incident earlier this spring when he didn't seem to generate the proper intensity while throwing batting practice?
"Like a model citizen," said manager John Farrell said. "His work has been good. He's got two innings [scheduled for Saturday]. He's been fine."
Those two innings for Aceves against the Twins will represent his last outing in camp before he departs for the World Baseball Classic, where he will pitch for Team Mexico.
Aceves has a personality that's a little quirkier than most, and Farrell isn't looking to suppress that.
"I think it's important for players to be themselves, and as long as being yourself doesn't start to take away from our team," said Farrell. "That's when conversations like that come into play, to understand that we are 25 people working in the same direction, and how you sacrifice in some ways to give to the team, that's a priority."
Aceves drew some praise on Monday, when he sat on the bench for the entire game after his two-inning start was over against the Rays. That isn't typical for veteran players in Spring Training.
"There's no denying his competitive nature," Farrell said. "There's no denying his passion for the game. That's clear. We're all individuals, and that's where we look to blend people from all walks into the clubhouse."
Brentz could see action with Red Sox this spring
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although Bryce Brentz, who is ranked the Red Sox's No. 7 prospect by MLB.com, didn't get a formal invitation to Major League Spring Training after a hand-gun accident left him with a wounded leg, the outfielder still could see action in a big league uniform before the Grapefruit League season ends.
"We fully expect at some point in camp he'd be over in games here," said manager John Farrell. "We don't have the exact date, but we're hopeful that he would be back at full baseball activity and get into games on our side."
Brentz injured himself by accidentally shooting himself in the leg while he was cleaning his handgun. He has started baseball activities in recent days, according to Farrell.