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.