SPRING TRAINING: GAME #3
Unlike Saturday, the Red Sox line-up for game #3 against the Orioles looked more like regular season. Almost every player starting the game will, barring injury, travel north when the team breaks camp. RF Bryce Brentz started his 2nd straight game in the absence of Shane Victorino. The visiting Baltimore Orioles did not take the same approach, as their starters were mostly players trying to show they deserve to be on the opening day roster. The Sox open the season against the Orioles in Baltimore.
The player who should benefit most from Ryan Dempster's surprising retirement announcement was Sunday's starter, lefty Felix Doubront. Unlike last year, King Felix (oops, that's a different Felix) came to camp in shape and ready to prove himself. He spent weeks before spring training getting in shape and worked with pitching coach Juan Nieves on his mechanics.
He couldn't have been much better, as he struck out the 1st two batters he faced and escaped the first ininning facing four batters, giving up a single to Delvin Young. In the 2nd he hustled to cover first on a one hopper that Mike Napoli bobbled and just beat the runner to the base.
In 2 innings of work Doubront threw 24 pitches, 18 of them for strikes. He had 3 Ks, no walks and gave up 1 hit.
Could Jonny Gomes (or a beardless impersonator) actually start some games leading off for the Sox this year? For the 2nd time in spring training he did, and, on 6 pitches, ended up popping out. Although lacking in speed and not being the typical lead-off hitter, Gomes drives the pitch count up in almost every at bat, something Manager John Farrell likes. On the day Gomes went 1-3 with a long single in the 5th.
GAME NOTESJerry Remy was welcomed back to the Red Sox broadcast booth and was "on his game.". It was nice to see Doubront work quickly and throw strikes. Mike Napoli remained hot, as he had a long 2 run HR to straight away center field in the bottom of the 4th. Xander Bogaerts had his 3rd straight start at shortstop. Still no word on any interest in Stephen Drew Jackie Bradley Jr. got the start in CF, as Grady Sizemore is being given a couple of days off. Sizemore is expected to get back into the line-up Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bradley had a wall ball double to left leading off the 5th inning and scored on a single by RF Bryce Brentz.. In the 6th he drove in Xander Bogaerts, who had doubled, with a two out single up the middle. Carl Yastrzemski was at the game to see his grandson Mike play. He did come into the game for the Orioles in the 6th as a PR and scored the Orioles first run of the game. Orioles GM Dan Douquette was also at the park.
YOUNG GUYS SHINE IN LATE INNINGS
The 8th inning was the chance for some young players to shine again and they came thru by scoring 3 runs. Prospects Trevor Scott and Alex Hassan both were active in the big inning, along with Ryan Lavarnway and Brandon Spikes. Scott had a double driving in a run and Hassan walked to score, while Lavarnway also had a walk & scored a run.
New Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica came in to replace Dubront at the top of the 3rd inning and, despite giving up some hard hit balls, retired the Orioles in order. To read more about Mujica check out my earlier article on Red Sox relief pitching http://clnsradio.com/boston-redsox-news/item/9065-boston-red-sox-pt-2-relief-pitching He had 37 saves for the St. Louis Cardinals last year and will be used as a set-up man for Koji Uehara and to spell him periodically as a closer.
Alex Wilson struggled in his inning of relief as he gave up back to back doubles off the left field screen/wall. Jonny Gomes did a great job of making it look like he would catch the 2nd double, keeping Young from scoring as he had to hold up and just reached 3rd on the hit. Wilson was able to get out of the inning without giving up a run. He ended up as the winning pitcher.
Although the Orioles came back late in the game, it was against pitchers that will not be with the team when they start the season.
UMPIRES LEARN JET BLUE PARK RULES
The umpires are still learning the rules for Jet Blue Park, as they called Young's double a home run, but then reversed the call. Unlike Fenway, the left field wall has a screen about three-quarters of the way up and then more wall just above the screen. Anything off the screen is in play.
The Orioles scored 5 runs in the top of the 9th to make it close, but the Sox held on for the 8-6 victory. The 1st win is always nice, whether spring training or opening day. We now know the Sox won't go winless this spring, but other than that the key is getting ready for the opener against the Orioles. .