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Posts Tagged ‘Grapefruit League’

Now that Spring Training is thoroughly underway, it’s high time for a status report.

Pitchers and catchers had physicals on February 11 and their first official team workout the following day.  Naturally, Buchholz just had to strain his right hamstring about ten minutes into the first pitchers’ fielding practice of the spring, but it turned out to be minor and he was back out there that Wednesday and had proceeded to long toss by that Friday and a forty-five-pitch side session that Monday.  Lackey lost a whopping seventeen pounds and is looking lean.  Don’t expect to see fireworks right away from Breslow or Doubront, who have been assigned to a more cautious training program.  Tim Wakefield was back at camp basically tutoring Steven Wright, the knuckleball’s next generation, and as we knew they would be, Pedro Martinez and Tek are also using their veteran skill to help out.  Mike Lowell is another surprise veteran guest.  And for some bizarre reason, when Aceves started throwing live batting practice, he insisted on lobbing the ball; I don’t really know what that was about.  Needless to say, he cleaned up his act.  Nieves and Farrell didn’t seem to know what was going on either, but Farrell sure was annoyed; as were we all.

The rest of the team reported on February 14.  Look for Victorino and Ellsbury to get a lot of practice in this spring.  Fenway’s right field is probably the most formidable in all of baseball, so it’ll be good for the two of them to nail down a routine.  Also look for Farrell to exercise considerable caution with Napoli, who started defensive drills at first on February 17; his hip MRI had come back clean, so he was given the green light.  Papi is not baserunning or conditioning with the team; he’s on his own specific running program that will slowly but steadily increase in intensity.  Middlebrooks’s broken wrist is officially history, as is Drew’s fractured ankle.  We acquired Mike Carp from Seattle for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.

We played our first exhibition on January 21; it was a double-header, first against Northeastern and then against Boston College, and we won, 3-0 and 11-1.  Only the relievers pitched; each got one inning, and Hanrahan debuted, successfully getting around two baserunners.  The regulars batted in the first game, while the minor leaguers got a turn in the second.

Grapefruit League play officially began on Saturday against the Rays.  We lost by one, and Lackey pitched only one inning, giving up a walk, a hit, a strikeout, and a run, but he looked pretty comfortable.  We played the Cards next, winning by two; Lester pitched two solid innings, Nava and Gomez both had multi-hit games, and Ciriaco batted in two runs.  Then we had a double-header with the Rays and Jays, splitting the day.  Aceves gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks over two innings, but Bard issued a walk and a strikeout in his scoreless inning, and Pedroia hit a solo shot.  The staff issued a solid performance in the afternoon, with a good amount of the offensive support not coming from the regulars.  Our following game against the Cards ended in the worst way: with a 15-4 loss.  Dempster pitched two solid innings, but the same can not be said of the remainder of the staff; Mortensen took the loss.  Ciriaco went two for two, and Iglesias hit a double.  We lost to Baltimore by two after that; Morales pitched his inning well, Hanrahan struck out two but walked one and allowed a run, and Tazawa was awarded a blown save as well as the loss.  Gomes hit a solo shot, and Ciriaco had himself another two hits, including a triple.  Middlebrooks had to leave the game with soreness in his wrist, but it turned out to be nothing, and he feels fine and returned.  Thank goodness, because I don’t know what we’d do if he were down for the count.  We’re not exactly deep at the corner there.  For his part, Gomes got personal with a wall and had to get stitches in his left knee as a result; this game really was not good to us.

On Thursday against the Bucs, Lackey upped the ante with two innings of work.  He gave up three runs with a walk, a strikeout, and a homer, but it seems like the more he goes out there, the more comfortable he seems.  And there’s no question about the fact that he’s throwing the ball well.  It was a 16-6 win, so the offense was also a highlight; the regulars were pretty quiet, and there were no extra-base hits, but we made a strong showing nonetheless.  It’s nice to know that the next generation can play some strong small ball.  Lester took a turn on Friday, pitching three innings of one-hit ball against the Orioles.  Pedroia went two for two and Drew hit a double en route to the win.  We eked out a victory against the Twins next; during 1.1 innings, Buchholz walked two, struck out two, and gave up one hit.  Aceves was awarded both a blown save and a win, and Sweeney went two for four.

Last but not least, we played the Evil Empire yesterday, losing, 5-2.  But hey, it’s Spring Training; the final score is never as important as the baseball being played.  Dempster pitched three one-hit innings with two strikeouts; Hanrahan blew his save and took the loss.  No one had a multi-hit game, but Salty doubled and Napoli hit a solo shot, which was quite the sight to see.  He cleared the sign in right center field 420 feet away.  It was huge.  I saw that, and it was so nice to really observe the reason why he’s here.

Bard will throw twenty or so pitches in a simulated game on Monday.  Papi has been running the bases a little bit but has felt sore.  Finally, Lucchino thinks our sellout streak will end soon; he cites April 10 as a possible end date.  I know there’s always a debate surrounding what the sellout streak has meant and whether it really means anything at all, but for a franchise like this with a fan base like ours, such a streak really shouldn’t be ending anytime soon.  That’s all I have to say about it.  And I’ll end with the beginning: Farrell’s opening address on February 15.  This was basically his opportunity to introduce himself and his philosophy to the team.  Even though many on the team know him and are familiar with the way he works, the gesture shows humility, collaboration, and the kind of professionalism that he urged members of the team to adopt.  The great thing is that, in many ways, Farrell is a product and holdover from the Francona era, but he’s still a fresh perspective, much-needed indeed after the debacle that was last season.  Farrell was compelling and inspiring.  He’s the man we should have had at the helm all along.  It just feels right, and it’s going to be a good year.

In other news, the Bruins beat the Jets, Bolts, Panthers, Isles, Sens, and Bolts again! Sadly, our winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 loss to the Habs.

AP Photo
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Finally! The day we’ve all been waiting for! Ladies and gentlemen, Opening Day has finally arrived.  It’s been one long, hard winter, but winter is over, my friends.  Spring Training is done.  It goes down tonight at 8:00PM.  Get ready to welcome the 2010 Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park! Oh, and we’re playing the Yankees.  Basically, this is the greatest baseball day ever in the past half-year or so.

There’s only one minor snag: technically it’s Opening Night, not Opening Day.  I’m not calling it Opening Night.  When ESPN wants its ratings, ESPN gets its ratings.  Who cares about the fact that this is only the most important day in the daily lives of Red Sox Nation and an entire region of the United States, right? Ugh.  ESPN.  That’s all I’m saying.  And the worst part is that we can’t even make a statement by engaging in the TV boycott that so many are suggesting because, let’s face it, we’ve been baseball-starved for way too long and absolutely will not and can not miss Opening Day in Boston against the Yankees.  And don’t think ESPN doesn’t know that.  You just can’t win with them.  It’s infuriating.

Speaking of ESPN, they hired Curt Schilling to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Because apparently all former Sox stars must be employed immediately to do analysis on Baseball Tonight.  Hey, at least they have good taste in teams.

The lineup: Ellsbury, Pedroia, V-Mart, Youk, Papi, Beltre, Drew, Cameron, Scutaro.  Boom.  Done.  And I have to say, I like it.  If Ellsbury can get going in the lead-off spot, we’re golden.  Can’t go wrong with the one-two-three punch of Pedroia, V-Mart, and Youk.  If Papi has a solid year, the first half of this lineup will be impenetrable.  I really like Beltre separating Papi and Drew; that way, the opposition can’t just throw a lefty in there.  Cameron in eighth; no surprise there.  And I like Scutaro in ninth because he’ll give some punch to the bottom half of the order.  When you have a decent hitter batting last, you lengthen your innings because there’s no guaranteed out at the bottom, and you force a turnover.

The roster is done.  Outfielders: Drew, Cameron, and Ellsbury, with Hermida as the spare man.  Infielders: Youk, Pedroia, Beltre, Scutaro, and Lowell, with Hall as the spare man.  Catchers are V-Mart and Tek, obviously.  We know the rotation is Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Wake, and Buchholz.  Beckett’s got the speed, Lester is the model southpaw, Lackey throws the first-pitch strike, Wake has the knuckleball, and Buchholz throws off-speeds like nobody’s business.  (Provided he’s on.)

The bullpen includes Ramon Ramirez, Paps, Bard, Okajima, and Delcarmen, with Schoeneweis and Atchison earning the final two spots.  Hey, if they earn them, they earn them.  And it hasn’t been easy.  Schoeneweis’s wife died last year, and Atchison returned from Japan to get better medical care for his daughter.  Good luck to both of them, and we salute you.

This was the last week of Spring Training, the last week of tune-ups, so any last-minute kinks had to have been worked out by today.  None of our arms disappointed.  Everyone looks primed and ready for actions, if you ask me.  I can’t wait to unleash this rotation on the rest of the league.  We’re talking epic domination this season.

Lester finished up on Wednesday.  One run on three hits in seven innings say he’s good to go.  V-Mart went hard twice, Frandsen (who knew?) blasted a grand slam, and Pedroia went three for five.

Lackey had his final tune-up on Thursday; one run on six hits over five.  That’s kind of a high hit total for Lackey, but one run makes it hard to argue.  Delcarmen struggled; Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless inning.  Scutaro, Tek, and Lowell all had a good day; it was the first time Lowell played in back-to-back games this spring, and he was actually pretty decent.

On Friday, Buchholz allayed concerns with a solid set of six innings; one run on two hits, and that was it.  Paps’s ninth was scoreless; Bard sent down his two batters in quick succession.  Tek smacked a three-run double; Ortiz smacked a double of his own.  Reddick’s Grapefruit League average is now .404.  Really, it’s a shame he’s back in the minors.  That kid’s got Major Leagues written all over him.

Wake pitched himself four shutout frames yesterday.  The only trouble he had was back-to-back singles with one out.  If that’s the only kind of trouble he has all season, I think we’re good.  He finishes Spring Training with a 3.04 ERA.  Surgery? What surgery? Dice-K relieved him for four solid frames.  That’s what I call encouraging.  I would’ve preferred that Dice-K not have walked three batters, but this is no time to be picky.  Youk and Drew went yard.

Hermida’s back in action as of Friday.  Ellsbury rested his throwing shoulder this past week, so I expect some serious firing from left.  Youk fouled a ball off his knee on Wednesday, but he’s fine.  Ortiz was scratched on Thursday with a stiff neck but came back on Friday.  Junichi Tazawa is out for the season; he needs Tommy John surgery.  We’re getting close to a contract extension with Beckett that would keep him here through 2014 for $68 million.

Basically, what it comes down to is the fact that we’re going to win tonight.  At least, we all hope so, and you know how it is in Boston.  You gotta believe.  But seriously, objectively speaking, I think we’re better.  Just take it position by position.  Our rotation is very obviously better.  Our bullpen is clearly better.  Our outfield is clearly better.  Most of our infield is better.  Our catchers are better.  We’re just better.  The great part is that that has nothing to do with keeping the faith; that’s just a verifiable fact.  Which will be proven tonight.  Let’s get this season started right.

Two wins and two losses this week for the Bruins.  We’re seventh in the conference, two behind the Habs and two above the Flyers.  It’s better than being seeded last, but let’s overtake the Habs if we can.

Brian Sullivan

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Okay.  Now Spring Training is really underway.  And you know what that means: baseball.  It’s pretty obvious, but when you actually reflect on the fact that live baseball is happening as we speak, it’s such a relief.

The countdown to Opening Day continues: exactly four weeks.  We can make it.

Meanwhile, this week in Fort Myers was all about the pitchers.  Everybody debuted this week.  (Except Dice-K, who threw a promising session off the mound on Monday and side session on Friday but who, according to Tito, will not be ready for Opening Day.  Shocker.)

Although, before I get into that, I’ll say this about Spring Training: it produces a lot of unnecessary worry when you focus on the scores.  Keep in mind that Spring Training is experimentation central.  Lineups get changed around, starters become relievers, relievers become starters, and starters rarely stay in for more than half the game.  The score means a lot less than the story behind it.  Take, for example, our game against Minnesota on Thursday, during which Beckett made his debut.  We won, 2-1.  Am I going to worry because we didn’t clobber them like we should have? Absolutely not, because it’s Spring Training.  I’m more interested in how sharp Beckett looked, how many pitches he threw, whether he was comfortable on the mound, and how well he accomplished his goal of keeping his fastball down in the zone.

And now, without further ado: on Wednesday, we saw Bonser and Kelly in the college double-header, which we obviously swept.  Kelly threw ten pitches against Northeastern, seven of which were strikes.  Two of his outs were Ks on changeups.  By the way, he’s only twenty years old.  Bonser threw a nine-pitch inning and got the win over Boston College.  Not bad, considering he didn’t set foot on a mound once last year.

We kicked off Grapefruit ball on Thursday against Minnesota, as I said.  Beckett pitched two frames, allowed two hits and one run, and struck out one.  Nineteen of his twenty-seven pitches were strikes.  He did indeed his fastball down, and if he continues to do that successfully, our infield is going to have its work cut out for it, with the difference between last season and this season being that now it can handle it.  Scutaro especially was ranging and flashing some nice leather.  It’s so good to have a solid defensive shortstop again.  Paps enjoyed a one-two-three inning; hopefully that’s an indication of what’s to come.

Friday’s performance against Minnesota wasn’t great.  Jon Lester’s first five batters singled, walked, walked, doubled, and singled, in that order.  Yeah.  Not the way you want to start Spring Training.  He couldn’t even stay in the game to repair the damage because he’d thrown thirty-three pitches.  Wake, on the other hand, coasted through two innings of two-hit ball; sixteen of his twenty-two pitches were strikes.  He looks ready to go.

And yesterday, we had the debut we’d all been waiting for.  John Lackey, ladies and gentlemen! Six Twins stepped up, and six Twins went down in just twenty pitches.  He was fast, he was sharp, and he was on.  No mercy.  This is going to be a sweet season.  And let’s give some points to DeMarlo Hale, our new bench coach, for managing that victory while Tito was managing the away squad in Port Charlotte.

Mike Cameron was injured this week.  Adrian Gonzalez wants $180 million for eight years.  Why does that sound so familiar.

A great week, I’d say.  We’ve seen promising performances from all but one of our starters, and I’m not worried about that one.  It’s very early yet, but the future of the 2010 season looks bright.  And that’s what Spring Training is all about, isn’t it? Optimistic speculation.  We’re going to have some fun this year.

Don’t look now, but the Bruins have won five of their last six.  (That loss was a contest with the Habs that ended in a score of 4-1.  I’d rather not talk about it.) And we’ve got a subpar schedule coming up; our next six games are on the road.  The coming weeks are going to be crucial.  Our sixty-nine points have seeded us seventh in the conference, a mere point behind the Habs.  We need to make sure we stay in the top eight; otherwise, our season is done in the middle of next month.

Boston Globe Staff/Barry Chin

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On Wednesday we had our first full-squad workout.  Folks, Spring Training is very much underway, and we’re in business! We have mere weeks until Opening Day.  (I’m sorry; I refuse to call it Opening Night.) Theo and Tito were pleased, which means things are going well.  Did I mention that we have mere weeks until Opening Day?

Dice-K was cleared on Monday to start throwing at sixty and ninety feet.  He increased that to 120 feet on Thursday, so that’s progress.  And we have our starting rotation for the first week: Casey Kelly will throw first, Bonser will throw second, Beckett gets the Grapefruit League opener during which Wakefield will be a priority reliever, and then Lackey followed by Buchholz.  Not bad.  I’ll be interested to see how Kelly fares.

Turns out Drew spent most of last season playing through a sore left shoulder, which has been repaired with surgery this offseason.  He’s going to start Spring Training slowly and raise the bar as it goes on.  On a related note, I don’t like this.  The secrecy with the injuries has to stop.  If something’s wrong with you, you take some sort of measure to fix it immediately, end of story.  But don’t make it worse.  Obviously any true competitor will want to power through it, but after a point you need to step back and measure whether you’d be helping or hurting the team by hurting yourself.  It’s a fine line.  Speaking of which, Delcarmen has promised to be more open about his injuries.  Call that a case in point.

I would like to take a moment to say that Mikey Lowell is the epitome if classiness.  He is a classy guy’s classy guy.  If you look up “classy guy” in the dictionary, Mikey Lowell’s picture is right next to the definition.  He has no idea what is fate is, either with or without us this season, and he’s completely okay with that.  This is what he had to say about his current situation:

“I’m getting ready for a season.  I think I’m pretty intelligent in the sense that there’s no real playing time for me here barring a major injury, and I’m not really in the business of hoping somebody gets hurt just so I can get at-bats.”

Now, there’s a man who knows what’s up.  None of this prima donna drama you find around the league with arrogant big shots with one foot out the door who need a lesson in humility.  I’m telling you, however this ends, Lowell has certainly set himself up as the ideal role model for other players.  And as far as we, the Nation is concerned, he said he loves our support.  I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s most definitely earned it.

Boston Dirt Dogs called out the Red Sox for not being original in designing their new Lee County Spring Training facility.  Apparently the Sox can’t do anything “beyond Fenway replicas.” Call me crazy, but when you want your guys prepping for the season, doesn’t it actually make sense for the training park to resemble the actual park? Especially for the new guys and prospects? If you’re playing eighty games in one stadium, you want everyone completely comfortable in there, and one way to do that is to train in a park that looks and feels like it.  So I fail to see the problem with that.

Finally, I’m getting really sick and tired of listening to everyone complain that this year’s team has no offense.  We lose one guy, Jason Bay, and suddenly our offense has evaporated into thin air? Yeah, right.  Let’s not forget the fact that we have Youk, and Pedroia, and Ellsbury, and V-Mart for the entire season (as opposed to last year’s half season due to this arrival at the deadline).  Add to that a revived Papi and Scutaro and I really don’t think there’s any huge cause for concern.  I mean, look at this past season.  It’s hard to get past the epic fail that was the 2009 ALDS, but we did finish third in the Major Leagues in runs.  The negative view of our offense this year is motivating, I guess, but we should also keep in mind that it’s not entirely founded.  I refuse to worry about the entire team’s offensive production simply because we allowed one dude to walk.  One guy does not a baseball team make or break.

On Monday, Eric Gagne confessed his use of human growth hormone.  That sure explains a lot.  Johnny Damon is a Tiger, which makes our lives a whole lot easier.  Believe that.

Sox Nest

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One more week of Spring Training and then it’s go time.  It’s going to be a good season for us.  I can feel it.  And this year our home opener is also our Opening Day.  Against the Rays.  It’s going to be epic.  I’m psyched.  Seriously.  We don’t have starters yet, but I venture to guess Josh Beckett will get the call.  We’ll see.  Anyway, a lot’s happened this past week.  First of all, on Monday Curt Schilling announced his retirement.  I read that and the first thing I experienced was relief.  I think he knew it was time for him to hang up his spikes, and I’m glad he retired with dignity.  The second thing I experienced was gratitude.  We owe him a lot.  He was one of the most dominant pitchers of our time, especially in the postseason, and we know that first-hand.  We continue to celebrate his achievements in October, and we’ll be forever thankful for what he did with our team in 2004 and 2007.  I don’t think we could’ve done it without him.  So here’s to you, Curt, for all your hard work and bloody socks and playoff gems.  Thanks from a city that’ll never forget, and we look forward to seeing you in the Hall of Fame!

Our pitching this season is looking pretty good.  Theo did a masterful job during the offseason.  In fact, it’s possible that our pitching staff is too deep.  We have five starting spots and the usual handful in the bullpen, so we might not have a regular place for everybody.  But that’s fine too; if someone gets hurt, we’ve got a man waiting in the wings.  Brad Penny made his Grapefruit League debut on Monday against the Tigers.  He pitched three innings; no hits, no runs, one walk, three K’s.  On Wednesday, Clay Buchholz pitched six innings against the Reds; one unearned run, only three hits, three K’s.  He even retired twelve batters in a row at one point.  I’m telling you, with every outing this spring he’s looking more and more like he did in ’07.  And let’s not forget that Masterson is still very much in the mix.  Last year he was primarily a reliever but, like I always say, that’s a waste because he’s starter material.  This season his fate seems to be closely tied to that of Penny.  If Penny isn’t ready to start, it’ll probably be Masterson who fills in.  So we know that we have one of the deepest staffs in the league.  We also know that we need another man in the rotation.  We’ll first need a fifth starter for the Angels game on April 12, and we have three pitchers who could conceivably fill that role well.  This should be interesting.

Dice-K returned to camp on Wednesday after having been named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic again.  So definitely congratulations to him.  And after his return, he got right back to throwing and didn’t miss a beat, which is a good sign.  What I’d like to see is him retaining his composure with runners in scoring position while improving his efficiency by cutting down on balls and walks.  As for the World Baseball Classic, it’s finally over.  The USA lost to Japan, 9-4, on Sunday, courtesy of Derek Jeter, whose fielding error cost us three runs.  Figures.  Anyway, Japan went on to win the finals.  And by the way, Jeter finished the night one for five.

Perhaps most uplifting, we’re getting healthy.  Dustin Pedroia played his second game since his left abdominal strain on Sunday and went two for three with a double.  Mikey Lowell hit his second home run of Spring Training in the first inning of that game, a powerful two-run shot.  Big Papi hit a double and scored a run on Lowell’s homer.  Even Chris Carter got in on the action, belting one out in the eighth.  Then on Monday, Youk played four innings in the field and had two at-bats, walking once.  Lowell was also in the lineup, marking his first set of consecutive games since his hip surgery.  In fact, he, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa homered consecutively.  It was beautiful.  Brought back memories of April 22, 2007, when we tied the Yankees at four the same way.  Of course, we went on to win that game, 7-6.  Dice-K started and got the win, and it was the third and final game of that series.  Our first sweep of the Yanks since the 1990s.  That was a great game.  Anyway, point being that Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, and Papi all looked smooth and comfortable, which is a great sign.  We just need JD Drew to find his rhythm and we’re in business.

The only downside to this health trend is that it includes Julio Lugo.  It’s been a little more than ten days since his knee surgery, so he’ll be returning to the lineup soon.  Not that I want him to stay injured.  I just want to see Lowrie start.  Or I want to see Lugo’s offense and defense undergo a drastic overhaul.  I don’t think we can afford to carry Lugo in the lineup, at least not for his speed, because we have Ellsbury.

Lastly, it seems that Mark Teixeira would like to be the “bad guy” in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.  That’s fine with me.  In fact, I say bring it.  The Yankees’ bad guys haven’t been doing a very good job.  Jeter hasn’t been making much of a dent in the scoreboard lately, A-Rod hasn’t been hitting in the clutch, and Johnny Damon’s average is dropping steadily.  Besides, we have more pitching than we know what to do with, and our lineup is coming together.  So I doubt that, in the long run, Mark Teixeira will prove to be much of a threat.  Besides, we have an offense of our own.  The Yankees may try to throw us a bad guy, but we come to the Yankees with a lineup full of bad guys.

So we’ve got a week left until the season starts.  I love this time of year.  The speculations, the predictions, the optimism, the clean slate, the opening of Fenway, the team’s return.  Eight more days until Opening Day, my friends.  Eight more days.  As always, it’s been a long winter, but the season is just around the corner.  And we’re ready.

In other news, the Bruins played two games this past week and won both.  We beat the Devils, 4-1, on Sunday and the Leafs, 7-5, yesterday.  So we enjoyed a nice break between those, and we’ll need the rest heading into the playoffs.  We have 104 points, third behind the Sharks’ 109 and the Red Wings’ 107.  We clinched our division.  We have eight games left in the season.  All we have to do is play steadily, conserve our energy, and go into the playoffs with some momentum.  This could be it.  I’ve said it all along, but seriously, this could be it.  This could be the year we win.

Deadspin

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Spring Training officially began on Wednesday.  We’ll play eighteen home games in the Grapefruit League this year, and as always Red Sox Nation makes a good showing in Fort Myers; we’ve sold out every game at City of Palms Park since March 16, 2003.  After a season ends the start of Spring Training is one of the greatest days of the year because it means baseball season is just around the corner.  On Wednesday I watched baseball for the first time since October and it felt awesome.  It felt great.  I’m so psyched for the regular season.  But as a spectator I’m not so sure I’m a fan of Spring Training.  It’s impossible to take these games seriously because the starters never stay in.  So it’s not a good gauge of the team’s performance down the stretch.  Not to mention the fact that you’re always worrying about injuries; look at what happened to Josh Beckett last year.  He threw his back out in Spring Training and it completely threw off his season.  Still, it’s a good opportunity for the team to warm up, get the kinks out, and scout the competition, and we get to see glimpses of how the guys are doing.  So it depends on how you look at it, I guess.  If you look at Spring Training as an indication of how the team will do during the season, it’s definitely lacking.  But if you look at Spring Training as an opportunity to get back in the groove, it’s not bad.

Wakefield got rocked by the Twins, but Bard handled him really well, so that was a relief.  Beckett pitched two perfect innings and struck out two against Boston College on Wednesday.  Yes, it was only a college team, but pitching is pitching, and Beckett’s form looked pretty sweet.  And what an experience that must’ve been for BC.  I’m telling you, that’s the thrill of a lifetime for those boys.  I mean what an opportunity for the team.  Buchholz made two starts and luckily he’s looking pretty good.  He pitched two innings on Saturday night, allowing only one hit and striking out one against the Reds.  He got the win in our first Spring Training victory against Major League opposition.  Doesn’t seem like much for Buchholz, but if you consider the fact that this time last year he was 1-3 with a 10.03 ERA.  At that time he owned a spot in the rotation.  Now he’ll have to earn it.  Sure, it’s only two innings, but with the way he pitched last season it’s better than nothing.

Rehab’s going well for everyone.  Mikey Lowell should be playing by the middle of the month, Mark Kotsay should be swinging a bat by the time we break camp, pitcher Miguel Gonzalez will visit an arm specialist for his elbow, and Jeff Bailey is good to go after fouling a pitch off his foot.

Dice-K isn’t camping with us because he’s prepping with Japan for the World Baseball Classic.  He struggled through about two innings of a warmup game in Osaka against Australia.  Japan eventually won it, but it wasn’t pleasant to see the Dice-K of ’07 instead of the Dice-K of ’08.  He gave up two runs on five hits and struck out three which, over two innings, isn’t as great as it could be.  But hey, that’s what warmups are for.  No use getting nervous over a contest in March; the only way to go is up.  There’s nothing left to do but improve, and he has the whole month to get it back.

Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, Boston is sending six: Dice-K for Japan, Jason Bay for Canada, Big Papi for the Dominican Republic, Dustin Pedroia and Youk for the US, and Javier Lopez for Puerto Rico.  The World Baseball Classic does interfere with Spring Training, but baseball is baseball.  As long as they play, they’ll be in good shape.  I’m not concerned.  Papelbon won’t be playing in the Classic this year.  Smart move.

News from Curt Schilling.  What else is new.  You’ll never believe this.  Remember how he said last offseason that he wanted to pitch with us for one more year and then retire? Yeah.  No.  Looks like he’s changed his mind.  He’d like to pitch for the Cubs this season.  That came totally out of left field (no pun intended).  The Cubs? The dude likes to break curses, I guess.  He won’t be hurting anybody in Chicago, that’s for sure.  I mean he’s a fantastic pitcher, but I don’t know how much he has left.  He’s aged, and he continues to age.  And we wouldn’t want his pitching to get in the way of his new hobby: expressing all of his…opinions.  It’s been interesting listening to his views on the proceedings during the offseason, that’s for sure.

In other news, Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing won the Daytona 500! Mike Dee, our chief operating officer and the president of Fenway Sports Group, partnered with NASCAR owner Jack Roush to form the five-car team in 2007.  And as you can see John Henry and Mike Dee have a penchant for championships.  Let’s hope it continues.  I have a good feeling about 2009.  The Patriots gambled by trading Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a draft pick.  That means the team is confident that Tom Brady will return, which is awesome news, but if Brady gets injured again we’re toast.  The Bruins are still fighting for supremacy over the league.  We’re tied with the Sharks right now with 93 points, and the Capitals, the team closest to us in the Eastern Conference, only have 85.  The Canadiens only have 75.  We have 93 points, and the Habs have 75.  Us, 93; Habs, 75.  Nuff ced.  Anyway, we routed the Panthers on Tuesday, 6-1, and shut out the Ducks on Thursday, 6-0.  So our offense is good.  We just need to stay with it.

Boston Globe Staff/Jim Davis

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