Friday Red Sox Notes: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carl Crawford, Roster Cuts

It's been a pretty busy Friday in the MLB world. Here are the notes you need to get caught up for the weekend.

Carl Crawford is back to swinging a bat after suffering a setback in his rehab earlier this month. Taking 15 swings with both hands, Crawford told Peter Abraham that he "felt fine" afterwards.

The initial expectation was that, while Crawford might not be ready for opening day, his return would not be delayed much beyond that. Now, though, with a week of time lost to inflammation, one has to expect that date has been pushed back some. Still, the time hasn't gone entirely to waste, with Bobby Valentine indicating that Crawford has been staying active in other ways.

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The first set of roster cuts is in, with a number of minor leaguers heading down to their respective ST camps today. Will Middlebrooks, Drake Britton, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Oscar Tejeda--all members of the 40-man roster--were optioned, while Juan Carlos Linares, Chorye Spoone, Alex Wilson, and Tony Pena Jr. were reassigned.

Of the eight players, the most interesting one is Alex Wilson. While he was never likely to end up in the fifth rotation spot given his relative inexperience, this makes it official that he'll be starting the year in Pawtucket.

Also of note is Ryan Lavarnway managing to stick with the team for now. He hasn't been terribly impressive in his limited opportunities so far this spring, but he is likely the one prospect closest to actually having a spot on the roster right now, so it is perhaps not for nothing that he's still hanging around.

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The Red Sox have signed international free agent 20-year-old Simon Mercedes for a signing bonus of $800,000, per Ben Badler of Baseball America. A right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic, Mercedes features a mid-90s fastball and a decent breaking ball. He's got a ways to go if he's going to make it as a starter in the majors, but a fair bit of time to do so, too.

The deal is still pending an investigation into Mercedes' age and identity, which is not a non-issue. Mercedes was actually signed to a $400,000 bonus by the Cardinals under a different name last year--one which also carried a rather later birth date. Then again, it seems rather unlikely that the issue would arise twice with the same prospect.

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According to Sean McAdam, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw his first live BP session since his Tommy John Surgery last year. Given that it seemed possible at the time that Matsuzaka wouldn't be pitching for the Red Sox until very late in the year, if ever again, this is some remarkably quick progress.

Bob McClure indicated to Alex Speier earlier in the month that Matsuzaka would throw "three or four live batting practice sessions, eventually including simulated innings." That makes one now for the Japanese righty. If all goes well, he could add some security behind a fifth rotation spot that is nothing if not shaky.

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Finally, the Yankees have brought back Andy Pettitte on a minor league deal. While Pettitte's retirement was a big deal after his strong-if-short 2010 season, there's plenty of reason to question whether his return will have quite such an impact. 39-year-olds already come with plenty of question marks, much less one a year out of the game. It's hardly a guarantee that Pettitte will ever see a Major League mound this year.

For their parts, the Sox aren't freaking out. Darnell McDonald had only this to say: "Good for me!"

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