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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Training’

Truck Day has officially come and gone! That’s the first sign that next season  can’t be too far away.  It’s been a long, cold winter, and the long, cold winter is still going on, but at least we know that things are starting to stir down in Florida.  Nothing gets you excited about the end of winter like equipment heading south for Spring Training!

Papi wants a multi-year deal.  No news there.  That’s what every player wants.  The challenge is that it has to make sense for the team as a whole as well.  This year we will welcome Jerry Remy back into the booth for the season.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Isles, 6-3, and the Panthers, 6-2, before losing to the Habs, 4-1.  We then shut out the Oilers, four-zip, and beat the Canucks, 3-1, and Sens, 7-2, while losing to the Blues in overtime, 3-2, before the Olympic break.

NESN.com Photo

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We signed Jose Mijares to a minor league deal with an invitation to attend Spring Training.  We also signed Grady Sizemore to a one-year deal plus a considerable amount of incentives.  Things are shaping up.

The B’s lost to the Blackhawks, 2-3, in a shootout, and beat the Kings, 3-2, and Flyers, 6-1.  As far as the Pats are concerned, we’re done.  The season is officially over.  We will not be advancing to the Super Bowl.  The Broncos, however, are another matter, since they beat us, 26-16.  We couldn’t run the ball, and the defense was porous.  It just felt like something was off.  I mean, granted, we were just really lucky this year; I guess the whole idea of a team fighting an uphill battle at every turn was a common theme in Boston.  Anyway, we were fortunate to have come this far, and it’s a real testament to the team to have accomplished that.  We’ve won a lot of critical games this year, many of them close ones.  And then it just ended.  So we’re out of the Super Bowl.  It’s awful, and it hurts.  But we can still be proud.

Boston.com Photo

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Pedroia’s thumb surgery is now done, but it looks like he may have to miss part of Spring Training to recover.  And that’s pretty much it.  No big news on other fronts, so the waiting game continues.

In other news, the Bruins bested the Bolts, three-zip, as well as the Blue Jackets, 3-2.  But we lost to the Sens, 4-2.  The Pats had a bye last week.

Boston Herald Staff

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Quite literally, it was an evening of milestones and breakout performances.  It’s funny how there are players on our roster who we don’t really get to know as well as some others until that one big game when we remember how much of an asset they are.  I would say that David Ross is such a player.  We acquired him due to his awesome skills as a backup catcher.  But offense-wise, there were probably many people who, around Spring Training, were thinking of him as just the other Ross.  I’m pretty sure that that will no longer be a problem.

We scored in each of the first five innings.  Ellsbury hit a deflected single to open the first and scored on a double by Pedroia.  With two out in the second, Ross went way deep.  Like, beyond the Monster deep.  Get-a-ninety-two-mile-per-hour-two-seam-and-crush-it deep.  Put-us-on-top-by-two deep.

Pedroia doubled off the Monster and scored on a double by Napoli in the third.  And then the fourth happened, and it was awesome.  Middlebrooks and Ross smacked back-to-back jacks.  Middlebrooks’s at-bat was a real battle.  He took his first three pitches for balls, took the fourth for a strike, and then fouled off the others until he got one he liked.  A lot.  It was a changeup, and it found its way beyond the Monster in no time.  And then Ross took two balls and gave a repeat performance.  It was epic.  You see something like that, and you do a complete double-take.  Actually, in this particular instance, you do two double-takes.  First you think you might be seeing a replay of Middlebrooks’s home run.  Then you realize it’s Ross at the bat, so you think you might be seeing a replay of Ross’s earlier home run.  And by the time he’s taking his own sweet time to round first, you realize that it’s the real deal and you just scored two runs on two swings.

Pedroia grounded out to start off the fifth.  And then Papi wanted in.  On a 2-2 count, he got a four-seam clocked at ninety-four that was basically a straight shot to the plate.  Big mistake.  Yet again, he let the ball find the deepest part of the park.  It was his second homer in as many days.  This one just barely got out, but out is out.  And even though we didn’t score in the sixth, it’s of course worth mentioning that Ellsbury stole his two hundredth base.  That total puts him in heady Sox company; he’s the third since Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker did it, and he’s leading the Majors with eleven so far.

And just in case we needed a little extra, we added some insurance in the eighth.  Middlebrooks, Ross, and Ciriaco hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out.  Unfortunately, Ellsbury lined into a double play, but Ross did score on a single by Gomes.  Napoli has set two club records for this month, which by the way isn’t even over yet; his seventeen extra-base hits and twelve doubles are both monster stats for April.  Ross was officially the man of the hour with the two homers as well as the first four-hit performance of his career.

Dempster, who’s been an unfortunate stranger to run support until yesterday, held down the fort from the mound.  Two runs on four hits while walking three and, taking a page from Buchholz’s book, striking out ten over six innings.  He gave up a double to lead off the third, which turned into a run on a groundout.  He gave up another double to lead off the fifth, which turned into a run on a sac fly, which itself could have been trouble had it not been for Gomes’s phenomenal diving catch in the classic Ellsbury style.

Anyway, let’s talk about his K’s.  There were the two swinging strikes in the first, one ending with a four-seam and the other ending with a slider.  Then there were the two that began the second, both ending with sliders.  There were the two in the fourth, one swinging on a splitter and the other looking on a four-seam.  There was the one in the fifth, ending with a swing on a splitter.  And last but not least, there were the two in the sixth, one swinging on a slider and the other looking on a slider and requiring all of three pitches.

Mortensen came in for the seventh.  He hit a batter and gave up a single made worse when Napoli missed a catch.  He finally recorded the first out of the inning, but Tazawa came in after that.  He gave up a sac fly that allowed one of his inherited runners to score.  And then he gave up a single of his own before ending the inning.  Uehara pitched the eighth, and Wilson pitched the ninth.  The final score was 7-3.  All in all, I’d say it went well.

AP Photo

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I was excited for Lackey’s first outing of the regular season.  Lackey lost a ton of weight and looked great this spring.  I think that I had reasons to believe that this season was going to be different for him, and we would see the John Lackey that we were supposed to have been seeing all along since we signed him.

In fact, his start was alright.  He pitched a lot better during this start than he had during many of his other starts stretching back a number of years.  I’d say that yesterday’s performance gave us a lot to look forward to, minus one extremely conspicuous downside.

Lackey gave up two runs on five hits while walking only one and striking out eight.  He opened the fourth by inducing a lineout but then gave up a single followed by a home run on a cutter.  That was basically his only mistake of the game.  He was pretty alright for the rest of it.  Those eight strikeouts were a pleasure to watch; I can’t remember the last time he paired low runs with high K’s.  His first K of the season was called on a cutter, and his second ended with a swing through a nasty slider in the first.  He had a one-two-three second ending in consecutive K’s, the first called on a fastball and the second swung on a curveball.  He opened the third with a three-pitch swinging strikeout that ended with a fastball and ended it with a swinging strikeout that ended with a curveball.  He ended the fourth with a three-pitch strikeout  culminating in a nice fastball.  And he opened the fifth with a three-pitch called strikeout ending with another fastball.

A grand total of six pitches made their appearance yesterday; his curveball, cutter, and four-seam were definitely the highlights.  He threw a handful of impeccable sliders and barely any changeups that were decent at best.  And his two-seam was just okay.  He threw twenty-one pitches in the first and only improved from there, throwing thirteen in the second, eighteen in the third, fifteen in the fourth, and three in the fifth.

That brings us to the bad news.  Lackey only pitched four and one-third inning.  He threw a grand total of seventy-six pitches and had to be taken out due to a right biceps strain.  The intensity of the strain will be determined as the appropriate medical procedures are undergone.  Obviously we’re all rooting for it to be benign not only because he actually looked great out there but also because we can’t afford to lose one of our starters this early in the year.

Getting back to the game, Lackey was replaced by Aceves, who didn’t pitch well at all.  Lackey got saddled with the loss, but it was Aceves who gave up more runs in less innings when his job as a reliever is to limit the damage.  He pitched the remainder of the game and gave up three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five.  Two walks and one out into the sixth, Aceves threw a big mistake of a fastball, which was hit for a home run, and that was that.

If you ask me, the loss should be shared between Aceves and the offense, which did almost nothing yesterday.  I mean that literally.  We mustered two hits: Ellsbury doubled on the sixth pitch of the game, and Pedroia singled on the penultimate pitch of the game.  Victorino walked twice, and Ciriaco walked once.  That was the extent of our men on base.  Ellsbury did pick up a steal in the first.  And Ciriaco managed to make it all the way to third in the  third, thanks to a wild pitch combined with a throwing error.  But when Ellsbury reached on a fielder’s choice out, Ciriaco was thrown out at the plate.  Ellsbury picked up another steal before Victorino walked, but Pedroia ended the inning with a popout.  In six of nine innings, we went down in order.  We sent five up in the third, our best chance to score.  In the first and ninth, we sent up four.

The Jays didn’t even have to play the bottom of the ninth.  We lost, five-zip.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Habs, 2-1.

AP Photo

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I can’t even believe that this day has finally arrived.  Out of the interminable slog that was all of last year, out of the rounds and rounds of speculation that was this offseason, we have finally emerged to welcome baseball back to Boston with open arms! I don’t know about you, but I really feel like I’ve earned this one.  It’s been rough, man.  With the way last season went, I felt like it was winter before the season was even over.  It was a long and cold one.  We’ve done without for way too long.  And then, suddenly, April arrived, and we enjoyed the glorious first opportunity of kicking back, relaxing, and taking in three hours and thirty-seven minutes of pure, unadulterated glory.  Man, it’s good to be back.

Where do I even start? I don’t even know.  It was all so divinely inspired.  I can’t even talk about it.

Lester.  I’ll start with Lester.  Wow.  What can I even say? Pretty much the whole staff got it together at camp, and Lester most definitely did not disappoint.  His start lasted only five innings, but this is so epically not the time to be picky.  Five solid innings on the first day of the season is fine as far as I’m concerned; he’ll pick it up as time goes on.  Besides, those five innings were pretty impressive.  Two runs, five hits.  Two walks.  Seven strikeouts.

There was a four-pitch strikeout of his first batter of the season on four pitches, ending with what was technically a cutter, but at ninety miles per hour with his movement, whether it was a cutter or cut fastball is a question that will probably not be answered anytime soon.  Then there was the seven-pitch strikeout that ended with a cutter, and the six-pitch strikeout that ended the second with a cutter, and the seven-pitch called strike in the third that ended with a cutter.  Lester had himself another seven-pitch strikeout in the fourth, this one ending with a fastball, but like I said, whether it’s really a fastball or a cut fastball is hard to answer.  And irrelevant, since a strike is a strike.  Lester bookended his fifth with strikeouts, the first five pitches ending with a changeup and the second his only one comprising three pitches: a sinker clocked at ninety-one miles per hour, a changeup at eighty-four, and a fastball at ninety-three, which wasn’t even his fastest of the day; he got up to ninety-four.

Ninety-six pitches, about sixty-six percent of which were strikes.  He was on with the cut fastball.  The overwhelming majority of his pitches were cut fastballs, as we’d expect.  And he put that fabulous Lester-esque bite on them, too.  They were moving exactly the way he wanted them to.  And he mixed in some nasty sinkers, changes, and curves in there as well.  He stood up there and he was a master.  I almost felt bad for the hitters until I remembered that we were squaring off against the Evil Empire.  And then I felt better.

Anyway, Lester threw seventeen pitches each in the first two innings, sixteen in the third, and twelve in the fifth.  The fourth was the big one; Lester threw thirty-four pitches.  He loaded the bases that inning and couldn’t completely escape without allowing a two-run single.  Other than that, Lester was solid gold.

Farrell then rolled out five relievers.  Uehara, Miller, Bailey, Tazawa, and Hanrahan combined to shut out the Yanks for the rest of the game.  All told, the Yanks were limited to six hits.

Alright, here we go.  Offense.  Let’s get down to it, because our hitters were as hot as our pitchers.  The starters stayed in for the whole nine, and they were great.  Great patience and eyes all around.  Great baserunning, too.  Ellsbury led off, followed by Victorino, Pedroia, Napoli in cleanup, Middlebrooks, Salty, Gomes, Bradley, and Iglesias.  Look for Farrell to change the lineup around pretty frequently, but this one worked out just fine.  Iglesias went three for five, Ellsbury went three for six, Gomes went two for four, and Pedroia and Victorino both went two for six.  Salty doubled, and Ellsbury tripled, and that was it for extra-base hits.  This was Bradley’s debut in the big show, and he certainly made the most of it.  Of our four total walks, Bradley accounted for three, not to mention his obvious speed on the basepaths as well as his run-saving, inning-ending, outstanding haul in left in the third.

Pedroia singled in the first, but we didn’t score.  Our big inning was the second.  Middlebrooks grounded out, and then Salty walked in five pitches, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Then Iglesias singled on the first pitch of his at-bat, bringing home one and reloading the bases.  Then Ellsbury grounded into a force out, causing Gomes to be out at home.  But then Victorino and Pedroia hit back-to-back singles, bringing in three before Napoli flied out to end it.

We went down in order in the third and put two on but didn’t deliver in the fourth.  A double and two walks, one intentional, loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth, but we didn’t deliver on that either.  Ellsbury tripled to lead off the sixth, but still nothing.  Then, in the seventh, Middlebrooks and Salty fought hard for back-to-back walks on eight pitches each.  Middlebrooks moved to third on a flyout by Gomes and scored on a groundout by Bradley.  We went down in order again in the eighth but closed it out with a bang in the ninth.  Middlebrooks was called out on strikes before Salty walked, Gomes singled, and Bradley walked to load the bases.  Iglesias struck out and then Ellsbury and Victorino singled back-to-back to bring in three.  Gomes accounted for the second of those runs, rocketing home all the way from second base.  The dugout and everyone else went appropriately insane.

And that, my friends, is the story of how we cleaned the field with the Yanks, 8-2, on their soil.  To me, this is much bigger than just winning the first game of the season.  We’ve had just abysmal starts out of the gate for the last two seasons.  This game means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to us.  We’re a new team now, and it shows.  There’s nothing like a more-than-auspicious start to the year to provide a good feeling about what’s to come.  Let’s get it!

I’ll say one last thing.  Seeing Kevin Youkilis in an enemy uniform was downright bizarre and torturous.  It’s a shame.  It’s a real shame.  And I guess that’s that.

In other news, the B’s lost to and beat the Leafs and lost to the Habs in a shootout; it was painful, but at least we get a point out of it.  We beat the Sens, lost to the Leafs, and beat the Sabres.

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It’s the middle of March.  The roster is thinning down, and the team’s performance is moving up.  As Opening Day nears, the pitchers especially are the players to watch.  Wins and losses means nothing in Spring Training, when regulars routinely don’t complete games, but a game is a game, and you can watch a pitcher’s motion and see how comfortable he is with certain pitches and certain situations.  Also pay attention to defense and injury in the field.  These things won’t necessarily predict our performance this year, but at least we’ll be able to tell how ready this year’s team is to face the music when the season starts.  Honestly, I have to say, it looks pretty good.

Nava is surely going to win a spot on the bench now that he’s proven himself at first, where he’s seen playing time this spring.  Drew has been out with a concussion that he sustained after getting hit by a pitch.  Papi started running the bases a bit but, due to soreness in his right foot derived from his Achilles injury, he’s had to take it easy as well.  While he’s sat out, Farrell’s been rotating the DH spot.  Unfortunately, he may very well start the season on the disabled list.  So will Breslow, due to problems with his left shoulder, and Morales, due to problems with his lower back.  Napoli actually saw action in consecutive days and managed to survive, which was a very good sign.  Aceves returned to camp after Team Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.  Fortunately, he wasn’t injured in the significant brawl that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada when the former got upset because the latter bunted with the game practically won already.  Team Mexico didn’t know about the Classic’s tiebreakers, which use run differential, and thought it was bad form.  So several Canadian players ganged up on Aceves and dragged him to the ground.  Like I said, we’re pretty lucky he wasn’t injured.  Victorino will also be heading back to camp now that Team USA is out.  Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who may not be, since he’s having some trouble getting a handle on the pitch, got cut along with Deven Marrero, Drake Britton, Justin Henry, Alex Hassan, Mark Hamilton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Beato, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Christian Velazquez, Daniel Butler, and Alex Wilson.  Ryan Westmoreland, once considered one of our best farmboys, is retiring.  We traded cash to Baltimore for Mike Flacco, who plays first base.  Yes, he’s the brother of Joe Flacco.  Yaz made his annual visit to camp, making the rounds with current Sox and former teammates.

Now let’s talk action.  We beat the Rays on March 4, 5-1.  Doubront made his debut and tossed 1.2 shutout innings including a hit, two walks, and two K’s.  Carpenter also tossed a shutout frame to end the game.  Iglesias went two for two with two doubles; Salty also had a double to his credit, and Overbay tripled.  We were back in action Wednesday opposite the Pirates, who beat us, 9-3.  On the bright side, Lester looked especially sharp; he hurled four comforting and relief-inspiring innings, during which he allowed one hit on two runs while walking three and striking out three.  I wasn’t a fan of the three walks, but it’s more important that he slowly but steadily lengthens his starts without also augmenting his run total.  Wright took the loss and gave up five runs on five hits; Tazawa pitched a shutout inning to end it.  Ciriaco went two for four, and Gomes and Salty both doubled.  We beat the Twins on Thursday, 12-5.  For the first three innings, it was all Buchholz, who dominated with a shutout performance and issued two hits, no walks, and four K’s.  Hanrahan delivered a deflating fail of a third of an inning, during which he gave up four runs on four hits, but Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Meanwhile, Pedroia and Napoli each collected two hits; Pedroia doubled and Napoli smacked a home run that seemed like he could really get used to the power again.  The Twins bested us the next day, though, with a shutout performance.  Dempster took the loss and gave up the game’s only two runs.  We lost to the O’s on Saturday, 5-2.  Doubront gave up two runs on four hits over three innings with a walk and five strikeouts; Hanrahan and Bailey both delivered shutout frames.  Salty had himself two hits, and Overbay doubled.

We beat the Rays on Sunday, 6-2.  Lackey worked three and two-thirds inning and gave up two runs on four hits, one of them a homer, while walking two and striking out two.  It doesn’t seem like much, but that start was better than most of the ones we’ve seen from him in recent memory; granted, it doesn’t take much from him at this point to constitute a good sign, but you have to start rebuilding somewhere.  Overbay went two for three, and Ross had himself a three-run jack.  The Marlins beat us on Monday, 8-7; Lester delivered five beautiful innings, giving up one run on three hits while walking none and striking out four.  Carpenter took the blown save and the loss, giving up two runs on two hits en route to recording the game’s last two outs.  Salty doubled, and Middlebrooks homered for the first time since getting injured! He looked mighty comfortable doing it, too.  Like he could do it again.  Repeatedly.  We beat the Jays on Tuesday, 5-3.  Buchholz kept up his strong performance with four shutout innings during which he issued one K and gave up three hits.  Bailey turned in a shutout inning of his own.  Nava, Napoli, and Sweeney each had two hits; Napoli, Sweeney, and Middlebrooks each hit doubles.

We had Wednesday off and bested the Twins on Thursday, 7-3.  Dempster picked up the win with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball; Bard pitched a shutout inning.  Ellsbury went two for three with a double; Iglesias smacked a double as well.  Friday’s game against Baltimore ended in a tie at three after ten; Mortensen started and tossed three shutout innings of two-hit ball, and no one had a multihit game.  We crushed Tampa Bay on Saturday, 9-2.  Aceves pitched four and one-third innings during which he gave up three runs, two earned, on six hits with one walk and five K’s.  Iglesias and Gomez both had two hits; Iglesias tripled, and Gomez doubled.  We beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, 5-1, on the shoulders of a literally perfect performance by Lester.  Six innings.  No runs.  No hits.  No walks.  Six K’s, or an average of one per inning.  Even Hanrahan got in the spirit and delivered a shutout inning.  It was only Spring Training, but it was a glorious indication of things to come.  Expect him to start on Opening Day for sure.  Middlebrooks went two for three, and Gomes was perfect at the plate; both doubled.

In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps in sudden death but then beat the Leafs, Flyers, and Sens.  We lost to the Penguins and then beat the Panthers and Caps before losing to the Penguins again.

Boston Herald Staff/Christopher Evans

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