Red Sox’s reported interest in John Buck seems surprising

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According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com “the Red Sox are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent catcher John Buck” if Victor Martinez signs elsewhere.

On one hand that makes sense, as both Martinez and Jason Varitek are free agents and Buck is generally considered the second-best catcher on the market this offseason.

On the other hand, Buck hardly seems like a typical Red Sox target. Boston’s lineup has ranked among the league’s top three in walks drawn every year since 2003 because the front office places a premium on players with good plate discipline and high on-base percentages. Not only doesn’t Buck fit those bills, he’s among the least-disciplined hitters in baseball.

This season he drew a grand total of just 16 walks and struck out 111 times in 437 plate appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked dead last in baseball among the 205 players who batted at least 400 times and his walk rate was third-worst ahead of only Pedro Feliz and A.J. Pierzynski.

And while Buck was able to succeed despite a horrible 111/16 K/BB ratio this season, hitting .281 with 20 homers and an .802 OPS, his previous track record is far less impressive. Prior to this season he hit .235 with a .298 on-base percentage and .407 slugging percentage in 584 career games, averaging 31 walks and 103 strikeouts per 437 plate appearances.

Buck is coming off a career-year and has always had good power for a catcher, but I’d be surprised if the Red Sox are truly prepared to get into any bidding wars over someone with a .301 career on-base percentage.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.