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Day 1 at the Fort

The yearly trek to Ft. Myers is here. Goodbye to the cold for a week and hello sunshine.

Nothing but baseball over the next eight days.

This is how the day started…
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I mean, really…What a view! Bright and early, dew still on the field. Nothing better.

Sunday is a camp day in the Minor League world. The big league club traveled north to Port Charlotte to play Tampa Bay and brought a number of potential PawSox with them. But, we’ll focus on the back fields, because that’s where I was.

Games started on Wednesday for the ‘Pawtucket’ team and they are off to a 1-2-1 start. Anthony Ranaudo started on Saturday afternoon and pitched well going four innings and allowed just a hit and a run with five strikeouts. To read the full recap of yesterday’s game, click here…http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140315&content_id=69424980&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_t533&sid=t533

But “Camp Days” are for fundamentals and a day of rest.

Admittedly, the guys were ready to start playing games two weeks ago after taking countless ground balls, hitting cut off men and working on run downs, but a nice afternoon off can do the mind some good.

So, today was all four back fields filled with individual position drills, a handful of bullpens, some agility work and batting practice. There was one simulated game, mostly between the low-A offensive guys. Chris Hernandez, who pitched in Pawtucket and Portland last year and needed some work, pitched three innings allowing just a couple walks. His cutter was sharp and he was efficient with his pitches.

Justin Haley, who spent 2013 in Greenville, allowed just a single in his three innings of work. He featured a firm fastball, a sharp breaking ball and an average changeup. He’ll more than likely be in Salem this year after going 7-11 with a 3.68 ERA with the Drive.

A handful of former and future PawSox got work in defensively and a round of BP. Alex Hassan, Bryce Brentz, Heiker Meneses and Garin Cecchini were the feature players back on Field 5.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox players who did not make the trip to Port Charlotte worked in the bullpen and the position players had a light workout in front of a handful of fans.

Some gathered by the bullpen to watch Felix Doubront get his work in.
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Earlier Brandon Workman watched Tommy Layne, Andrew Miller and Rich Hill throw their bullpens.
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I ran into PawSox manager Kevin Boles as he was headed to one of the back fields as well as pitching coach Rich Sauveur, coach Bruce Crabbe and trainer John Jochim. All were eager to get the season started, but certainly enjoying the warmth while they still can.

A couple of PawSox related injury notes. Matt Barnes has been throwing at 120 feet for the last few days and the hope is to have him throw a bullpen over the next few days. With the shoulder stiffness and subsequent shut down/restart, it’s unlikely that he’ll break camp with the PawSox. But, he won’t be too far behind.

Another PawSox standout, Steven Wright, who is coming off of sports hernia surgery, is ahead of his work out schedule. He was playing catch at 75 feet today, something he usually wouldn’t be doing for another week. But, after talking with him for a bit, he’s doing well, feeling good and hoping to be game ready in six weeks (beginning of May). And his knuckleball was dancing all over! One particular knuckler crossed up his catching partner and almost hit Jim Rice as he was chatting near the clubhouse a good 100 feet away. The near miss elicited a comment along the lines of, “Hey, if you you wanted me to work with you, all you have to do is ask!” Both smiled and continued with their work.

A few random shots from JetBlue…
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High atop the Green Monster...just a few feet HIGHER than the one in Boston

High atop the Green Monster…just a few feet HIGHER than the one in Boston

The backfields from The Monster

The backfields from The Monster

As for the big league game in Port Charlotte which Boston lost 8-4, Allen Webster started and was ok. Four innings, three runs (two earned), three hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Of the 68 pitches he threw, 38 were strikes. A “run of the mill” start for Allen at the moment.

Drake Britton struggled for the first time this spring going just 1.2 innings while allowing five runs (all earned) on six hits with two walks. In all, he faced 13 batters and eight reached base.

Brayan Villarreal, Francisco Cordero and Jose Mijares all added scoreless innings.

Deven Marrero is still opening eyes, now, more so, with his bat as he slugged his first spring homer in the 9th and is hitting .333 thus far.

Ryan Lavarnway has found his hitting stroke as he went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI as his average sits at .320. And Brock Holt added an RBI double and is hitting .292 in his battle with Jonathan Herrera for the back up infield job in Boston.

Tomorrow, as most of you know, is St. Patrick’s Day! The Red Sox will be hosting the Cardinals at JetBlue Park and I’ll be covering that game after spending the morning on the back fields. I should have some news and notes mid-day and then an evening nightcap edition. I’ll be emceeing the Future Stars Luncheon for the BoSox Club after the game, so the run down of the festivities will be delayed. Attendees for the event include William Cuevas, Wendell Rijo, Daniel McGrath, Bryan Hudson, Jordan Weems, Carson Blair and Greenville Pitching Coach Paul Abbott.

Don’t worry, I’ll wear my green and have a green beverage later!

More to come throughout the week.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox, PawSox Each Tally Wins against Twins

Both Boston and Pawtucket drove a few miles west on Daniels Parkway to play against the Twins and Rochester, respectively, in Lee County. And both garnered one-run victories.

First, on the feature field, Hammond Stadium, the Red Sox edged the Twins 4-3. Jake Peavy made his spring debut and looked pretty sharp. He would go three plus innings allowing a run on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts while using 53 pitches (31 strikes). Peavy was removed after issuing a leadoff walk in the 4th.

Lefty Andrew Miller, who has been exceptional to this point in the spring, promptly gave up a double to Oswaldo Arcia before throwing a wild pitch to allow a run to score from third. Kurt Suzuki added an RBI single off Miller as part of a three-run inning.

Boston’s pitching shut down the Twins from there allowing just four hits over the next five innings. Matty Ott (more than likely ticketed for Portland) walked two in .2 innings. Brandon Workman tossed three scoreless innings allowing just a pair of hits and striking out three. Dalier Hinojosa and Francisco Cordero finished off the game with clean frames.

Peavy has been tinkering with a new pitch, a splitter, to add to his repertoire. He gives all the credit to Koji Uehara who, “wouldn’t be the pitcher he is without it”. He unveiled the new pitch in his debut Thursday and according to his manager John Farrell, “It’s got some action in the bottom of the zone. Not too many offered swings at it. It’s something that he’s been working on here as he’s got to camp. But in addition to that, the one thing he talked about last year was trying to kill some of the speed of his curveball. You saw some in the mid-70s, which was good separation from his fastball. For the first time out, he had a good assortment of pitches today.”

The Red Sox sent their “A” lineup and they produced four runs on seven hits against Minnesota, who started with Phil Hughes on the mound. The Twins committed three errors which led directly to all four Boston runs scoring. Seizing opportunities is the name of the game, right?

Shane Victorino had an RBI single in a 2-for-3 afternoon and Dustin Pedroia’s two-run double in the 5th put Boston in front for good. Pedroia finished 2-for-3 in the game. Will Middlebrooks singled and stole a base and Deven Marrero doubled in his lone plate appearance.

A few hundred yards away on the back fields, the PawSox beat Rochester 5-4 to improve to 1-0-1 after two games of Grapefruit League play.

SS/OF Ryan Dent led the way going 4-for-4 (all singles) with two RBI and two runs scored. Third baseman Carlos Rivero went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple and a run scored, his second straight strong offensive game. Second baseman Mookie Betts had two hits, an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base while OF Bo Greenwell, son of former PawSox and Red Sox star Mike Greenwell, delivered an RBI double which proved to be the winning run.

Lefty Henry Owens made the start for the PawSox and gave up two runs in 3.1 innings. His final line – 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO. The win went to Kyle Kraus (1-0) in relief who was charged with one unearned run over two-innings. The recently sent down Miguel Celestino earned the SV (#1) with two scoreless innings along with two strikeouts.

The PawSox will play Norfolk this afternoon in Fort Myers.

Today, the Red Sox will travel to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays.

Clay Buchholz will try to continue his strong start to the spring and build off his impressive outing last Sunday against the Pirates. The rest of the lineup:

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Jonathan Herrera 3B
Mike Carp DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Corey Brown RF
Ryan Lavarnway C
Brock Holt SS
Mike McCoy 2B

An injury update on pitcher Matt Barnes. The former first rounder has been dealing with a sore shoulder and was shut down close to two weeks ago. Barnes is now playing catch from 120 feet and the Red Sox hope to get him on a mound by the end of the month. What that means is that he would be a long shot to open the season with the PawSox. It might not be too far from the beginning of the season when he joins the club, but opening night seems far fetched at this point.

Nonetheless, John Farrell says that Barnes is making excellent progress.

Tomorrow is a travel day for me as I head down to Ft. Myers for a week to cover the team in person. I’ll be covering both the PawSox and the Red Sox throughout, so expect some photos and up to the minute updates on all the spring training action.

Happy Friday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Minor League Games are Under Way

While the roster for the PawSox is far from set, the “Pawtucket” roster played against the “Rochester” roster yesterday on the back fields at JetBlue Park to a 5-5, 10 inning tie.

Most of the Pawtucket roster featured players that will be in either Portland or Salem, but the team got a nice boost with starter Felix Doubront pitching to keep with his regular rest. The lefty went 4.2 innings allowing two runs on three hits while striking out five. Nathan Reed (Independent/Mexican League in 2013) followed and threw 1.1 hitless innings. Mickey Pena (Salem/Portland/Arizona Fall League) went the next three innings and allowed seven hits and three runs. Chris Resop (Oakland/Sacramento) needed only four pitches to retire the side in the 10th-inning but the game was called after the top of the 10th.

Stefan Welch (Altoona/Salem, mid-season trade with PIT) launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the 4th-inning to give the PawSox a 3-2 lead. Third baseman Carlos Rivero (Syracuse, Harrisburg) added an RBI double in the 7th-inning to tie the game at 4-4 and catcher Dan Butler (Pawtucket Team MVP) delivered a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 8th to even the score at 5-5. Butler had two hits in the game.

The PawSox will play Rochester again today, but in Lee County just down to road.

Boston will be back in action as well as they will play the Twins in Lee County, a few hundred yards away from the PawSox.

Jake Peavy is scheduled to make his spring debut after he cut his left index finger (non pitching hand) while fishing. Here’s the rest of the lineup and pitching assignments after Peavy.

Daniel Nava LF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Xander Bogaerts SS
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Pitching after Peavy: LHP Henry Owens, RHP Brandon Workman, LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Jose Mijares, RHP Dalier Hinojosa, RHP Francisco Cordero.

The Red Sox made their first round of cuts earlier today. Among the names that were optioned to Pawtucket: RHP Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Alex Wilson, RHP Alex Hassan, OF Bryce Brentz and 3B Garin Cecchini. And these players were sent to minor league camp: RHP Matt Barnes, INF Heiker Meneses, LHP Henry Owens, C Blake Swihart, RHP Noe Ramirez, RHP Miguel Celestino and 1B Travis Shaw. Now, this doesn’t mean these players won’t still appear in big league spring training games, as evidence of Owens pitching today, but they won’t be making the Boston roster. And, to be fair, none really expected to make the initial roster with the exception of maybe Wilson. There are just not many jobs to be won this year, a stark contrast from a season ago.

Still “on the roster” are new comer Dalier Hinojosa and shortstop Deven Marrero. There is speculation now that Marrero could be the starter in Pawtucket the start the year. Whether he is or not is still a couple weeks from being determined, but to say that John Farrell and the rest of the Boston brass is not impressed with his defense is an understatement.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing these guys got “cut”. It just means they’ll be getting more consistent work, it’ll just be on the back fields. With the big league regulars starting to stretch out their playing time, the at-bats and the innings just aren’t there for some of these guys to get their reps. These moves allow them to do just that.

Boston now has 46 players in camp. They’ll need to make 21 more cuts to get to the final roster limit of 25 before their March 31st opener at Baltimore. Not a ton of jobs to win on the big club, but certainly a lot of intriguing names that could end up in Pawtucket because of the competition.

On the lighter side, my blogging buddy Rick has been singing the theme song for the Lansing Lugnuts for months now. Literally, at least 10-15 times a day he’ll just randomly pop out a, “You gotta go nuts, go nuts, go nuts”. It was quite entertaining for the first couple weeks…it’s getting a little long in the tooth now. Just to get a taste…

Everyone in the office is now trying to get a new song stuck in his head…any suggestions?! We started this one today, but it just doesn’t have the traction yet.

At least it’s a good deal…Like our Dollar Menu Mondays…where all your ballpark favorites are just a buck…Hot Dogs (a better deal at McCoy), Peanuts, Chips, Popcorn and Cracker Jacks all just a dollar on Mondays.

Makes me ready for Opening Day, which is just 21 short days away, against Lehigh Valley April 3rd.

Go Sox (Red and Paw!),

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Split Tuesday Double Dip

Boston split up their roster to play in a pair of games Tuesday, one at home against Miami, the other on the road in Sarasota against the Orioles. Boston beat Baltimore 6-5 and lost to Miami 5-4. Both had highs and not too many lows.

We’ll begin on the home front where the Red Sox saw the spring debut of John Lackey, the team’s #2 starter. The big righty out of Texas allowed just one hit over his first two innings. The 3rd was a different story as the Marlins went single, double, single, strikeout, sacrifice fly before Lackey was removed from the game once he reached his pitch limit. Said acting manager Torey Lovullo after the game, “I thought he was good. He ended up making some pitches in his final inning that ran his pitch count up, but overall for the first he stepped on the mound, his fastball was downhill. He located it and I think the idea for him was to get his legs under him and make those types of pitches. I thought he was good.”

Lackey’s final line included three runs allowed on four hits while he did not walk a batter and struck out three. Overall, a good start to the spring.

As for the rest of the bullpen, they allowed just two hits over the next five and a third innings. Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Koji, and Tazawa all have spots in the Boston ‘pen come season’s beginning and all were sharp allowing just two base runners total.

Drake Britton, who the Sox are still trying to iron out whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever, pitched the final two innings of the game. After a 1-2-3 8th, Britton struck out the first batter he faced in the 9th before allowing a single and a pinch-hit two-run homer to allow the Marlins to take the lead. The southpaw got out of the inning without any further damage. The two runs were the first allowed by Britton in six spring outings. He’s struck out seven and walked just two.

At the plate, the Red Sox had just six hits. Mike Carp hit his 3rd homer of the spring. Christian Vazquez added an RBI single. Travis Shaw had an RBI double and Bryce Brentz had an RBI single in a 1-for-2 day that included a walk to boost his average to .409.

Grady Sizemore started for the second straight day, the first time he had played in back-to-back games since September of 2011, and went 0-for-2. Many pundits think he is poised to win the starting job in center field if he stays healthy. Depth is never a bad thing, especially when a guy like Jackie Bradley Jr. is neck and neck with the former All-Star.

Ian Browne, who covers the Red Sox for mlb.com, wrote a nice piece about Grady’s success to this point and how he is passing all the tests that have been given to this point. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/bos/grady-sizemore-passing-all-tests-could-win-starting-job-with-red-sox?ymd=20140311&content_id=69104394&vkey=news_bos

The contest in Sarasota featured a number of players that will more than likely be in Pawtucket. From all the pitchers who appeared (again, more than likely), to the position players sans Nava, Middlebrroks and Pierzynski.

In the 6-5 win, Allen Webster started and was lights out for the first three innings allowing just a pair of singles. But, in the 4th after he retired the lead off man, Webster lost his command walking three straight batters to end his outing. Oh so promising to start, then to have it end on a bit of a sour note is unfortunate. The crazy thing is that he hadn’t walked a batter until the rough 4th. Regardless, he got through the 1st relatively clean which is a huge plus.

Reliever Alex Wilson walked one and recorded two outs. Lefty Tommy Layne tossed a perfect inning and has yet to allow a run in the spring. Brayan Villarreal allowed a run in two innings of work and Noe Ramirez picked up the two inning save despite allowing two runs on four hits.

But perhaps the story of the day was the offense. Boston pounded out 12 hits, eight of which were extra base hits. Brock Holt, Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Lavarnway homered, Jackie Bradley Jr. tripled, Daniel Nava doubled twice, and A.J. Pierzynski and Holt doubled too.

Three of the Sox six runs were scored off of old teammate Alfredo Aceves, who signed with Baltimore in the offseason.

Former Red Sox prospect Michael Almanzar, a Rule-5 selection this past December, doubled home two runs in his only at-bat.

Boston will enjoy one of just two open dates in the spring schedule today, but they’ll pick back up game action Thursday down the road at Lee County against the Twins. Another pitching debut is on tap, this being the one of Jake Peavy.

A couple of links to good reads for the day, both coming from the Boston Globe.

The first from Peter Abraham who dives into a number of bullet points on the progress of the team at this point in the spring…http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/03/12/red-sox-spring-training-progress-report-updates-and-observations/X7DVkyRDWZksaXqtkRTxOJ/story.html

The second from Nick Cafardo on a couple scouts opinions of what the Red Sox have with Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts on the left side of the infield…http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/2014/03/scouts_share_thoughts_on_bogaerts_middlebrooks.html

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Lester Deals in Spring Debut; Lackey Debuts Today

Any rust on Jon Lester? No chance. Not after his three shutout innings allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out four in the Red Sox 6-2 win over Tampa Bay.

After his start, Lester said, “I felt good. It felt good to get the first one out of the way. Kind of what we talked about last week as far as getting used to the surroundings and the fans and the whole routine of a normal work day. It was good. It was a step in the right direction going through spring.”

The team has been cautious with both Lester and Lackey after their larger than usual workloads from the 2013 World Series run.

Speaking of Lackey, he’s scheduled to make his Spring debut against the Marlins this afternoon. More on that in a bit.

Boston got offensive contributions from David Ortiz, who blasted his first homer of the Spring, Mike Napoli who launched his second and Corey Brown, who figures to be in the PawSox starting lineup, homered for the first time in the 8th inning. Brown also singled and is hitting a steamy .571 (4-for-7) and making the most of his opportunities with his new club.

Will Middlebrooks’ bat has started to heat up as he went 2-for-3 with a double and boosted his spring average to .316. Grady Sizemore added another hit (1-for-3) to raise his spring mark to .364. And Sizemore will be playing today as well, the first time he’s played in back-to-back games this spring. Xander Bogaerts has been slow to get going in the average department hitting just .188, but he walked two more times yesterday and his approach has been steadfast.

On the mound, the rest of the staff was strong. Chris Capuano, competing to be the swing man in the rotation and long man in the bullpen, allowed a solo homer to Evan Longoria on the first pitch he threw, but was fine after that. His final line, 3 IP, ER, 4H, 2 K.

Anthony Ranaudo looked much better in his outing yesterday as he threw two scoreless innings. He did walk a couple and allowed a hit while striking out two.

Jose Mijares allowed a run in his one inning in the 9th, an RBI single by Kevin Kiermaier who was strong against the PawSox in the Governors’ Cup Finals for Durham.

On to today where the Marlins visit JetBlue Park. Remember last week when Boston was across the state and the Miami brass was upset with the players that were sent for their game. Today, the Marlins are fielding their regular season lineup to which Owner John Henry tweeted…

Classic!

Boston will trot out John Lackey to the hill in his spring debut. The lineup behind him will be…

Grady Sizemore CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ross C
Bryce Brentz RF
Jonathan Herrera 3B

In addition to the game at JetBlue, the Red Sox will send a split squad to Sarasota to play Baltimore. Allen Webster will make his third spring start. His first against the Twins was not great, but his second against Miami was very strong. He’s looking to get in back-to-back solid starts.

The lineup behind Webster…

Daniel Nava 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Will Middlebrooks 3B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Ryan Lavarnway DH,
Corey Brown LF
Alex Hassan RF
Brock Holt 2B
Deven Marrero SS

A good sprinkling of big league regulars and depth guys. I don’t think the Orioles will scoff at this travel squad like Miami did last week.

Lastly, Red Sox Manager John Farrell didn’t officially commit to his starting rotation to begin the season, but the way it maps out with rest would be Jon Lester on Opening Day, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz.

It’s supposed to “feel” like spring today in Pawtucket! Opening Day is only 23 days away!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Things ‘May’ Be starting to Come Together; Two Monday Debuts

After a really rough start to the spring for the Red Sox, it seemed things were starting to turn around a bit with a 4-1 win over Atlanta on Friday afternoon.

Felix Doubront fired four scoreless inning allowing just a pair of hits while striking out three. And the rest of the bullpen of Koji, Taz, Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop and Francisco Cordero held the Braves to just two hits over the final five innings. All but Cordero looks to have a pretty sizable role in the Boston bullpen.

The offense, which was more of regular season preview, pounded out 11 hits including a pair from Grady Sizemore. Ryan Lavarnway had a big two run single during a three-run 7th inning outburst. All of Boston’s runs were scored with two outs.

What optimism was gained in Friday’s win was quickly extinguished after a truly rough Saturday. In a split squad doubleheader with Baltimore, Boston lost both ends 7-3 and 13-2, respectively, while committing EIGHT errors.

In game one, the lone bright spots were Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz who each went 2-for-3 with homers. For Brentz, it was his 3rd and for Middlebrooks, his 1st.

Henry Owens made the start in Sarasota and went just 2.1 innings allowing three runs on five hits. he walked two and struck out one. So far, Owens has appeared in two official spring games allowing four runs in 4.1 innings (8.31 ERA) on six hits. The tall lefty, who has been described as a mix of Chuck Finley with his build and Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (only because he is from Southern California), is rated as the 2nd best prospect in the Red Sox system, and the best pitcher.

Alex Wilson had a rough day allowing four runs on five hits while recording just two outs. Tommy Layne, Matty Ott and Jose Mijares each tossed 1.1 scoreless innings. Noe Ramirez threw a scoreless frame as well.

At least the first game was competitive because the night cap was not pretty at JetBlue. A 13-2 drubbing where Boston made six errors and had just three hits.

The good: Christian Vazquez hit a two-run 9th inning homer, his first of the spring. Corey Brown and Brandon Snyder singled. Chris Hernandez and Jose Valdez were the only pitchers not to allow a run.

The bad: a good number of the Red Sox regulars were in the starting lineup. Six errors, five of them fielding, two by Jonathan Herrera and one each from Jonny Gomes, Garin Cecchini and Heiker Meneses, and an errant pickoff from Brayan Villarreal. A.J. Pierzynski had a passed ball. The Orioles were 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts, three by Jemile Weeks. Only 7 of the 13 runs scored by Baltimore were earned. Brandon Workman started and went 3.1 innings allowing two runs on four hits with two walks and two k’s. His spring ERA now sits at 11.12 (7ER/5.2IP/9 hits).

As we’ve talked about before, wins and losses in the spring are not that important, just show some progress from the team. There were a few funny tweets during the Saturday double-dip debacle mentioning that John Farrell should run into the showers and throw all the bats in to get the team’s attention, a la the manager from Bull Durham before his infamous “lollygaggers” speech. No need for that at this point, but it sure would have been funny.

Sunday was big turnaround as the club went to Bradenton to face the Pirates. Clay Buchholz looked like the 12-1 ace from a year ago mixing and matching his pitches efficiently and effectively. He went three no-hit innings while walking just one and striking out one. His two-seamer was down in the zone consistently and got five ground balls out of the nine batters he faced. Three were flyouts and the other putout was a caught stealing. Very good stuff from Buch.

Andrew Miller struck out the side in the one inning he threw and looked dominant. Dalier Hinojosa continues to impress firing a pair of scoreless innings and Francisco Cordero picked up another save throwing a clean 9th. Rubby De La Rosa is continuing to try and find his groove this spring. He allowed the Pirates first hit in the 7th inning and an RBI single to former Sox prospect Chris McGuiness. De La Rosa’s spring ERA currently sits at a bloated 11.25 (5ER/4IP/9 hits).

The bats came around as Jackie Bradley Jr. delivered a two-run single, Mike Carp went 2-for-3 with a homer (#2) and Derrik Gibson had an RBI single.

Bryce Brentz added a couple singles to boost his spring average to .400 (8-for-20).

On to the present as the Red Sox host Tampa Bay at JetBlue Park today. Shane Victorino is in the starting lineup to make his spring debut and Jon Lester will start on the mound for his first start in a “real” game since the World Series. Victorino had offseason thumb surgery and is being eased back into game action while Lester has just been held back, along with John Lackey, after their heavy workload in the playoffs last year.

As for the rest of the lineup against the Rays, it looks Opening Day-esque…

Grady Sizemore CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava LF
Shane Victorino RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Will Middlebrooks 3B

Jake Odorizzi will start for the Rays…that’s a name that could be familiar to PawSox fans as he started the game that Pawtucket was no-hit on May 5th and started Game 1 of the finals in September. He was tough on the PawSox in both of those starts. Odorizzi, a former first rounder by the Brewers, was part of the Zack Greinke deal that sent him from Kansas City to Milwaukee (Odorizzi went to KC) and was shipped to Tampa Bay (along with 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers) from KC for James Shields.

And don’t look now, but minor league games start Wednesday when Rochester visits the JetBlue Park back fields.

Good to be back, happy Monday…24 days until Opening Night at McCoy!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

A Tie is as Good as a Win

In essence, the 2014 PawSox tied the Miami Marlins yesterday. Marlins brass has made a big stink about the Red Sox not sending enough “A-list Players” to their game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter Thursday. A quote from the Sun-Sentinel…The Marlins charged extra money for tickets to Thursday’s spring training game in Jupiter, Fla., because the World Series-champion Boston Red Sox were in town. The problem? The Red Sox didn’t exactly send out the same lineup that beat the Cardinals last October, and that’s something that really upset some of the Marlins’ higher-ups. According to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, “The Marlins had no comment, but a source said team executives were ‘outraged’ and planned to contact the league office.” To read the whole article, visit here…http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/03/06/report-marlins-executives-outraged-at-red-sox-for-lack-of-star-power-in-spring-training-lineup/

But, really, what does this say about the Marlins if they tied, essentially, a Triple-A team? It says that the Red Sox system is really good or the Marlins are really bad. I’ll take the first option.

Lineups aside, the two teams played to a 0-0 tie after seven innings. Mother nature pretty much wiped out every game in Florida. Only the Yankees and Phillies got their game in besides the Red Sox/Marlins tilt because of nasty storms. Even the first round of the World Golf Classic at Doral had it’s first round stopped short, good thing for Tiger Woods, who looked like he was putting with a shovel.

Regardless of who was there, who wasn’t and the poor weather, several Red Sox farm hands really shined on Thursday. One was Allen Webster. After a forgettable debut last week against Minnesota, Webster brought his “A-Game” to Jupiter.

He was economical (30 pitches in 3 innings). He allowed just one hit and struck out one while he did not walk a batter. Of the nine outs he recorded, seven were ground balls, perfect for a sinker-baller. A stark contrast from his first outing when he couldn’t get out of the second inning. Some of that had to do with what Webster did between starts. He had a film study with John Lackey and Jon Lester, at the urging of pitching coach Juan Nieves.

“They saw me drifting forward, and they pulled me aside and told me to stay back over the rubber and get more angle, get more downhill to the plate,” Webster said.

The result?

“I think what it does, it eliminates some of the over-rotating where he’ll misfire either to his arm side or yank some balls down and away,” John Farrell said. “It keeps him a little bit more north and south, kept the sinker on the plate, which was a pitch that he got a number of outs with.”

Keep it up Allen because the results were a ray of sunshine in what inevitably was a gloomy day.

Another stand out was shortstop Deven Marrero, who has seen extended playing time while the team has been on the east side of Florida. A day after committing an error against the Cardinals on a routine play, Marrero turned heads with his glove against the Marlins Thursday. So much so, that he got this reaction out of his manager, “My gosh, he put on a display defensively.”

A first round pick in 2012 out of Arizona State (Dustin Pedroia’s alma mater) and a kid who went to high school just 70 miles south of Palm Beach, there’s a reason why last spring they made him the first position player since Scott Hatteberg in 1992 to be invited to big league camp after just one year of pro ball. “Defense is my thing,” Marrero said. “I’m ready every pitch. Everything else just happens, it flows. Everything happens so quick, you just react.”

What’s truly remarkable about Marrero’s defense is that he made just 9 errors in 64 games in Lowell in 2012, his first year of pro ball. In 85 games with Salem in 2013, he made just 4. In his late season promotion to Portland, he made just 2 in 19 contests. The kid is a glove man. His bat is still a work in progress, but maybe strides have already been made as he is 4-for-8 at the plate so far this spring. He’ll more than likely start 2014 in Portland, but don’t be shocked if he ends up at McCoy Stadium a some point this summer.

More news and notes from Thursday:

Boston had seven hits in the seven innings including an Alex Hassan double and Marrero’s two knocks. Jackie Bradley Jr. had a hit and a walk. Ryan Lavarnway did too. Blake Swihart singled as did Bryce Brentz who played the whole game in right field.

The club was just 1-for-10 and stranded 11 men on base…

In what was the shocker of the day, Garin Cecchini was hitless in four at-bats with four strikeouts. He’d never taken the silver (or golden depending on who you talk to) sombrero in his ENTIRE career before Thursday. In fact, he’d only had THREE 3 strikeout games in his 279 game career spanning over 1,000 at-bats. Pretty sure he’ll be making more contact over the next few weeks of spring.

Drake Britton added a pair of scoreless innings, while pitching around a leadoff double and a walk in the 5th before inducing a double play to get out of trouble. Alex Wilson also fired a scoreless inning while walking one and Miguel Celestino (the 100 MPH man), pitched a clean final inning before the rains came.

The below is a brief excerpt from Gordon Edes article on ESPNBoston.com about Bryce Brentz and his relationship with his brother and how he is looking to make an impression this spring.

“My brother got all the size,” Bryce Brentz says. “I’m the runt of the family.”

Six-foot-four Jared Brentz has at least four inches over his twin brother, and a build that bears a greater resemblance to Charlie Brentz, their father who played football both ways for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

The read the full article, use this link…http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/red-sox/post/_/id/34823/brentz-working-hard-to-make-an-impression

Today, the Atlanta Braves come to JetBlue Park for their 1:05 game with Boston. Felix Doubront will make his 2nd start of the spring for the Red Sox with a lineup that the Marlins would have been more pleased with.

Grady Sizemore CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Daniel Nava RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Will Middlebrooks 3B
David Ross C

Happy Friday and enjoy what is supposed to be warmer weather this weekend!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Spring Struggles Continue for Red Sox

Another day and another tough game for the Red Sox. The offense was quiet until late. The pitching was not sharp and the defense was poor (three errors) in an 8-6 loss against St. Louis.

As we talked about yesterday, wins and losses really don’t matter in spring training, but you’d like to see players moving towards their goals and improving as a team. Now, manager John Farrell has had his patience tested saying, “Tough day defensively. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re well into the game schedule but we have work to do as a team. It was a tough day for Will [Middlebrooks] defensively, but compounded by [pitchers] being behind on the count. We have to do much better pounding the strike zone than we have.”

The comment on Middlebrooks comes after he played a routine groundball off to the side rather than squaring it up, that resulted in an error that led to a couple of runs. He misplayed another ball later in the game that led to three more runs. Xander Bogaerts looked a “little slow” in trying to get to a ball to his left and one to his right.

Anthony Ranaudo battled his command throughout his outing. The 6’7″ starter lasted just an inning and a third allowing five runs, three earned on six hits with a pair of walks. He was behind in the count and could not find the strikezone with much consistency. Said Ranaudo, “Getting out of my delivery. I wasn’t hitting any spots. Overall not a good game. I need to do a better job of in-game adjustments. It’s still the first week in March and there’s plenty of time to straighten it out.”

After Ranaudo, the three other Red Sox hurlers were strong. Dalier Hinojosa went 2.1 innings allowing an unearned run on four hits and struck out four. Lefty Tommy Layne retired all four batter he faced, two on punchouts. And Noe Ramirez worked a clean frame.

As mentioned, the offense was held in check. After a lead-off solo homer by Daniel Nava on the second pitch of the game, Cardinals starter Shelby Miller retired the next eight batters he faced.

Trailing 7-1 in the 6th, Xander Bogaerts launched his first spring training homer, a no-doubter to left field. After a Mike Carp triple, Will Middlebrooks brought him home with a groundout.

Boston had a chance in the 9th on a rally ignited by a group of PawSox. Dan Butler drew a walk and future PawSox 3rd baseman Garin Cecchini singled before Heiker Meneses doubled into right center plating two. However, Meneses tried to stretch his double into a triple and was thrown out to end the game. Again, wins and losses aren’t everything in the spring, but it was good to see the “kids” do a good job of fighting ’til the end.

Christian Vazquez started behind the plate and collected a pair of hits in three AB’s. He also threw out a runner trying to steal second and got close to picking off two guys at first base on back-picks.

Bryce Brentz went 0-for-2 with a walk while starting in right field. He made the defensive play of the day gunning down a runner at third on a perfect, no-hop throw to end the 5th inning.

Ryan Lavarnway DH’d and played the whole game going 1-for-4. The Cardinals broadcast team had the telecast and the “Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky said, “What did Ryan do to be put in the dog house to play the whole game?” Nothing, Al…just getting his at-bats with a limited travel roster.

Deven Marrero doubled in his only plate appearance, but also committed and error at shortstop.

Boston would strikeout 14 times in the game.

The Red Sox remain at Roger Dean Stadium to play the Marlins, and familiar face Jarrod Saltalamacchia, today. The lineup looks very similar to one that fans could seen in Pawtucket in the near future. Allen Webster will make his second start of the spring.

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Alex Hassan, LF
Garin Cecchini, 3B
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Travis Shaw, 1B
Brandon Snyder, DH
Bryce Brentz, RF
Deven Marrero, SS
Heiker Menses, 2B

The injury update for the day is that starter Matt Barnes is hoping to play catch today after being shut down earlier in the week with shoulder stiffness. He said he, “feels good”.

Jon Lester threw three simulated innings yesterday with strong reports and John Lackey will throw a two-inning simulated game today. Lester is slated to start Monday against Tampa Bay.

Minor league camp is up and running with games scheduled to begin on March 12th against Rochester (Twins affiliate). Yours truly will be camp bound on the 15th. I’m ready to renew my relationship with the warm sun!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Offense Quiet again for Red Sox Tuesday

In what has become a bit of a trend in the early going for the Red Sox, the offense once again was held in check in an 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay Tuesday afternoon in Ft. Myers.

Eight singles and four walks was all the offensive production against the Rays. Alex Hassan had the lone multi-hit effort going 2-for-3 as he made the start in right field. Dan Butler started behind the dish and had a single in two at-bats. And Brandon Snyder continues to have a strong spring collecting another hit. He’s hitting a cool .500 (3-for-6) with an RBI.

Corey Brown, who was hit by a pitch in his hand on Thursday last week, got back into action, but struck out in his lone at-bat. Brown is more than likely ticketed for Pawtucket to start the season.

As a team, Boston was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and hit into four double plays.

The story of Tuesday, though, was the return of Clay Buchholz to the mound. He hadn’t pitched in a game since the World Series and there was some rust. He only threw one inning allowing a run on three hits while walking one and striking out one. But the key to his outing was that he felt healthy. “Definitely, I feel good,” Buchholz said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the time off or whatever, but everything seems to be coming together pretty easily right now. It definitely feels completely different than the last month and a half, two months that I threw last year. That’s what I wanted to feel like coming into camp, and I just have to keep working day to day and getting out there every five days.”

He’ll be a huge key to the Red Sox rotation this year.

Meanwhile, Rubby De La Rosa, who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday, did not fare well in his two innings. He allowed four runs on five hits, including a homer to James Loney, a pair of walks and one strikeout. It was not a great showing for Rubby after he was strong in his first appearance last week.

Reliever Brayan Villarreal didn’t not pitch well either in his lone inning. He allowed three runs on three hits (a pair of doubles and a homer) with two strikeouts.

Francisco Cordero, Jose Mijares and Chris Hernandez each added scoreless innings, but that damage had already been done for Tampa.

While spring training results are not the “be all, end all” with wins and losses, it certainly doesn’t hurt to tally a couple wins. So far, Boston is 1-4.

On the injury front, Jake Peavy threw a bullpen early this morning. He still cannot use his left hand to catch, due to his sliced up finger, so he solicited the help of a bullpen catcher to receive throws.

The catching duo of A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross both have left ankle issues. Pierzynski rolled his diving back to first on a pick off attempt and Ross has had lingering issues since the offseason. Ross said, “it’s one of those things where I can run straight, but I can’t really turn really good”. Ross will more than likely throw and hit today and Thursday and is hopeful to be back into a game Friday. With the team on the east side of Florida for two days, Pierzynski has two built in days off. He hopes to return Friday as well.

No update on Matt Barnes today. He was shut down yesterday due to shoulder stiffness, but the medical staff believes he’ll be fine. No structural damage has been reported.

As mentioned earlier, the Red Sox will be on the east side of the state for the next two days as they take on the Cardinals and Marlins today and tomorrow in Jupiter.

Chris Capuano will make his Red Sox debut today against St. Louis at Roger Dean Stadium.

And the rest of the lineup is as follows:

Daniel Nava LF
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Mike Carp 1B
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Ryan Lavarnway DH
Jonathan Herrera 2B
Bryce Brentz RF
Christian Vazquez C

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Monday News from the Fort

The Red Sox showed some of the comeback grit that made them 2013 World Series Champions in yesterday’s 7-6 defeat against the Pirates in Bradenton.

Starter Brandon Workman, who was filling in for Jake Peavy who cut his left index finger while fishing, did not fare well in his second outing of the the spring. He allowed a two-run homer in the 1st inning to Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin slugged another two-run shot in the 3rd. It should be noted that the ballpark in Bradenton does have a pretty sizable jet stream making it favorable for hitters.

Manager John Farrell was not overly concerned with Workman’s outing. “I thought he showed good definition with three different pitches, but when he mislocated or elevated a couple times, they made him pay for it. But we got him out for the start of the third inning, and as we continue to stretch him out, we got him to 45 or so pitches, it was a solid work day, even though the results might not be what we anticipated.”

Red Sox bullpen regulars Koji Uehara (making his spring debut) tossed a scoreless inning as did Junichi Tazawa and Burke Badenhop. Henry Owens threw an inning out of the bullpen and allowed a run on a hit with a pair of strikeouts.

Boston was limited again on offense accounting for just six hits, but two of those knocks left the yard. Bryce Brentz slugged his second of the spring and Mike Carp added a two-run blast, his first.

Brock Holt started at shortstop and while he did not have a hit, he reached on a fielder’s choice and stole a pair of bases. Garin Cecchini started at third and drew two walks.

Starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski had the lone multi-hit effort going 2-for-3 with a double, but had to leave the game in the 7th inning after rolling his ankle in an attempt to get back to 1st base on a pickoff. Farrell on the Pierzynski ankle, “He rolled that ankle once again. He rolled it while it was in the dirt. It was a little discomfort, similar to earlier in camp when we had to pull him out for a couple days so it’€™s something he’€™s managing and trying to support it best he can.”

Pitcher Matt Barnes, in his first major league spring training, has been shut down for a few days due to shoulder stiffness. Farrell said, “we’re just being overly cautious”. He is more than likely slatted to be in the PawSox rotation.

As mentioned before, Cecchini has been raising lots of eyebrows to this point early in camp. But this is nothing new to the Louisiana native. Ian Browne of MLB.com caught up with the top prospect.

If Garin Cecchini plays like the son of a coach, it’s because he is actually the son of two coaches and proud of it.

From t-ball to his senior year of high school, Cecchini was drilled in the fundamentals of the game by his mom and dad, Raissa and Glenn.

When Garin — a left-handed-hitting third-base prospect for the Red Sox — reached Barbe High School in Louisiana, Glenn was the head coach and Raissa was not only the first-base coach, but also the de facto hitting coach.

To read the entire article, click here…http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/bos/parents-influenced-red-sox-third-base-prospect-garin-cecchini?ymd=20140303&content_id=68614982&vkey=news_bos

Here is a great piece by Mike Berardino of twincities.com about Drake Britton and his best friend, and former Red Sox farmhand, Ryan Pressly who now pitches for Minnesota and their bond that will live forever. http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_25260526/pitching-through-pain-twins-pressly-and-red-soxs

Clay Buchholz will make his spring debut today against Tampa Bay at JetBlue Park at 1:05; he’s scheduled to go just one inning. The birthday boy, Rubby De La Rosa, is scheduled to pitch a couple innings as well as Andrew Miller, Francisco Cordero and Jose Mijares.

The rest of the lineup:

Grady Sizemore CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Alex Hassan RF
Dan Butler C

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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