– KEVIN THOMAS

Staff Writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Josh Reddick knew coming into spring training that he had no chance of making the big league club.

Still, his numbers this spring — a .383 average with seven doubles, a triple and a home run — can’t help but inspire confidence that he’ll be ready if needed in Boston.

“He’s made a lot of good strides,” Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said.

Francona has often praised Reddick. He likes the power that the wiry outfielder puts into his swing.

When Reddick made the jump from the Portland Sea Dogs to Boston last July 31, Reddick went 5 for 15 with a home run and two doubles in three starts.

Reddick did not return to Portland, but instead was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. When he was summoned to Boston again, he struggled, finishing with a .169 average (10 for 59).

That is why this spring has been important to Reddick.

“I’m still proving to myself and others here that I can hit these guys up here,” said Reddick, who turned 23 last month.

Boston has four veteran outfielders — J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida. Reddick will only see Boston if there is an injury, or when rosters expand in September.

Hermida is nursing a tight hamstring. Francona expects him to be fine by opening day but has kept Reddick on the major league spring training roster, just in case.

Eventually, Reddick will be assigned to Pawtucket and will continue to work on his game, which includes the ever-present challenge of converting from a free-swinger to someone who works the count.

“He’s a maturing hitter and there is a lot to like,” Francona said. “The more he swings at good pitches, the better he will be.”

Francona knows Reddick can crush a fastball. “When he knows a fastball is coming, he can generate some pretty good bat speed, he said. “But sometimes you have to earn fastballs.”

that, Francona means Reddick needs to lay off bad pitches, such as breaking balls in the dirt, and force a pitcher to throw fastballs.

“I’m always learning,” Reddick said. “I’m getting a lot of ABs (17 for 43) and a lot of starts.

“It’s just making my confidence that much better.”

RED SOX CATCHERS will not be on a set schedule like in previous years, when Jason Varitek was the starter and his backup handled Tim Wakefield’s knuckleballs.

Francona said the schedule will be more “traditional,” with new starter Victor Martinez getting most of the starts, except for rest periods when Varitek will play in his new backup role.

Look for Martinez to find his way into the lineup often. Francona said he was concerned “about taking Victor’s bat out of his hand.”

No. 3 catcher Dusty Brown was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Brown who spent two seasons with the Sea Dogs, made his major league debut last September, hitting a home run in three at-bats.

He enjoyed his taste of the majors and longs for the day when he stays up there.

“Everyday, I get a little bit closer,” said Brown, who is batting .318 this spring.

JUNICHI TAZAWA was in Birmingham, Ala., visiting renowned Dr. James Andrews about his right elbow. The Red Sox released no more information, but normally a trip to Dr. Andrews is a cause for alarm. Dr. Andrews specializes in Tommy John surgeries.

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA and Boof Bonser pitched in simulated minor league games.

Matsuzaka, who had back and neck pain earlier the spring, is scheduled to pitch again in Saturday’s exhibition against the Nationals in Washington, then will likely make a few minor league rehab starts.

Bonser also is expected tostart the season on the disabled list. He will pitch in a minor league game Saturday.

IN ADDITION to Brown, catcher Gustavo Molina and infielders Kevin Frandsen and Jorge Jimenez were sent to minor league camp.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]