Friday's takeaways: Encouraging signs

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from Camp Farrell, Day 12:

* It’s called the ladder, and you’ve probably seen it in your health clubs at home. This ladder is not intended to be leaned against a wall but placed on the ground, not to be climbed but to be stepped through with rapid movements -- advancing forward with stutter steps, going side to side while quick-stepping, often followed with a brief sprint. That was the drill David Ortiz went through Friday, the latest test for his strained Achilles tendon under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Pat Santora, and he seemed quite encouraged by the progress. He’s getting closer, he said, to running the bases and then playing in a game.

* Mike Napoli has been cleared to run the bases on Sunday, manager John Farrell said, which puts him on track to play in a game sometime next week, perhaps by midweek.

* John Lackey will take the mound Saturday for the first time in 517 days. It’s scheduled to be just an inning, but Farrell calls it a “significant step” in Lackey’s comeback.

* Pedro Martinez was very hands on with Alfredo Aceves during the latter’s side session Friday, and also has been closely watching Rubby De La Rosa.

“He’s been impressive, not just in terms of his stuff, but his ability to manipulate a baseball,’’ Farrell said of De La Rosa. “He has a good feel for a changeup, throws his breaking ball for strikes. Coming off Tommy John, we’re a little more slow-paced with Rubby, but he’s been really impressive early on.’’

* Allen Webster is the other good-looking arm who came over with De La Rosa from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett deal. The baby-faced Webster, who is from North Carolina and is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, sits at the far end of the Sox clubhouse, and keeps a watchful eye on things.

“I’m posted up here in the corner,’’ the 23-year-old Webster said. “Just peeking around.’’

This is Webster’s first big-league camp, but so far, he said, the acclimation has been smooth.

“It’s not taken near as much time as I was thinking,’’ Webster said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got traded over. Everybody’s been really nice to me, acting like I’ve been here the whole time.’’

Asked what he foresees as the team’s plans for him, Webster said: “I don’t really know how to answer that. I can only do what I can.’’

* Ortiz, upon hearing that Bobby Valentine will be named athletic director at Sacred Heart University: “Good. Good for him.’’

* Daniel Nava turned 30 on Friday, becoming the 12th player on the Sox roster to be 30 or older. On March 16, Stephen Drew will become the 13th 30-something, and Dustin Pedroia (Aug. 17) and Jacoby Ellsbury (Sept. 11) will also cross that threshold this season. Am I the only one finding it hard to believe that Pedroia and Ellsbury will soon be 30?

The Sox have three roster players who were born in the 1990s: Webster (Feb. 10, 1990), shortstop Jose Iglesias (Jan. 5, 1990) and catcher Christian Vazquez (Aug. 21, 1990). The youngest player in camp, of course, is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who turned 20 last Oct. 1. Shortstop Deven Marrero (Aug. 25, 1990) and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (April 19, 1990) are the other ‘90s babies.

Vazquez is in his first big-league camp. A native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Vazquez was drafted on the ninth round in 2008. He began last season with Class-A Salem before being promoted to Double-A Portland for 20 games.

If the Dominican Republic can be considered the cradle of shortstops (28 natives of the island nation have played at least 500 games at short in the big leagues, including such notables as Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Tony Fernandez, Rafael Furcal, Rafael Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Jose Uribe, Neifi Perez), Puerto Rico can make a similar claim for catchers. Pudge Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Benito Santiago, Sandy Alomar Jr., Ozzie Virgil, Javy Lopez, Geovany Soto, Javier Valentin, Ellie Rodriguez, Ramon Castro, Junior Ortiz and the Molina brothers (Jose, Yadier and Bengie) all have come from Puerto Rico.

Vazquez is from Bayamon, close to San Juan, which is also home to the brothers Molina. He was drafted out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.

“I was 15 when I tried out,’’ Vazquez said Friday. “If you make the tryout, you can study there. I started there in the 11th grade and graduated from there. Two years of school.

“The school was one hour’s drive from where I live. I would get up at 5:30 every morning, because school started at 7. The day ended at 5. We did baseball first, 8 to 11. We ate lunch, and then we studied from 1 to 5.’’

Vazquez is regarded as a very good defensive catcher, with a strong arm. “I’m quick to second base,’’ he said.

With so many catchers to choose from, Vazquez was not invited to play in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico. “But I’m learning a lot in this camp,’’ he said. “The veterans, Salty and David Ross they’re good guys.’’

Here’s the scouting report on Vazquez, courtesy of Soxprospects.com:

“Excellent defensive catcher with a strong wide frame and solid agility behind the plate. Plus arm strength. Struggled in the past blocking balls in the dirt, but has made strong strides improving with controlling his body to front offerings. Firm when receiving pitches. Quick feet. Smooth footwork when firing out of crouch. Learning to lead behind the plate. Average batspeed. Has worked to quicken swing load. Extends on offerings middle-to-away well. Gets tied up by higher velocity fastballs on inner third. Must increase hitting zones to make consistent contact in higher levels. Tends to be fooled by sharp breaking balls. Fringe-average-to-average power potential. Capable of driving balls into the gap hard. Ceiling of backup/platoon catcher at the major league level.”

* The final word belongs to Farrell. When someone suggested to Farrell that maybe every pitcher should undergo Tommy John surgery since so many seem to be stronger than before the operation, Farrell said:

“Having gone through it twice, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, nor would I recommend it before they got hurt.’’