LET'S PLAY BALL
Monday marked the 5th straight day the World Champion (it still gives me a little chill everytime I hear that) Boston Red Sox played a ballgame. Think about that...it doesn't happen in any other sport. In fact, in every other sport if you lose a game it lingers in your mind until the next game is played. Football is the worst, as you have to live with the loss for a whole week. Of course, in the case of the Patriot's, that doesn't happen very often!
In the long haul, Spring Training may not matter much. As I wrote in an earlier column, wins & losses don't mean anything...it's all about getting ready for opening day. Even so, just the idea that every day there is an opportunity to read and see something new about "your" team gets you more excited as that special day approaches.
OPENING DAY IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY
Right now it may be snowy, cold and windy in New England, but the feeling that spring is just around the corner is enhanced every time the Sox play another game in Florida. It's not too long before 3:05PM March 31st rolls around and the Sox start to defend their World Championship in their season opener at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
After being off April 1st, the schedule maker, obviously unaware of weather condition in the northeast, did not schedule another day off until April 14. Unlike past years, the Sox play 12 straight days...and half of those games are at Fenway. Heck, in the 2nd week they play a 4 games series at Yankee Stadium. Is that a waste of a rivalry or what? Much too early to have the "fires" burning, unless it's just to keep warm.
Just visualize this: The sun is shining brightly, the banners are flying and everyone is happy! It's 2PM Friday, April 4th...opening day at Fenway Park (yeah I know, it may only be 32 degrees, but let's not go there now). The opening ceremonies are long...but who cares? Baseball is back in Boston and Red Sox Nation is ready to welcome this team with open arms. They'll be playing the Milwaukee Brewers (theres a team we would all rush to see if it wasn't opening day) and the park will be sold out with wall-to-wall Sox fans.
BACK TO EARTH
All that said, it's time to report on Monday's action against the Pittburgh Pirates. The Sox traveled to the Pirates home field in Bradenton, Florida with a limited squad. The highlight of the day was the fact we finally got to see Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. The Sox lost 7-6 after coming back to tie the game 6-6 in the 8th. 21 year old Henry Owens gave up the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 8th.
The only recognizable starters were Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Ryan Lavarnway, A.J. Pierzynski and Jackie Bradley Jr. The rest of the line-up consisted of youngsters Garin Cecchini at 3rd and Bryce Bentz in RF along with journeymen Jonathon Herrera (2B) & Brock Holt (SS)
LEADING OFF?The Merry-Go-Round at lead- off continued and Daniel Nava jumped on board Monday. In the first 4 games the Sox have had 3 different lead off hitters. Nava was 0-3 in the role. Ryan Lavarnway started at 1st in an attempt to increase his value when the team heads north. If both he & Nava show they can handle the back-up role to Mike Napoli, Carp's time with the the Sox could be in jeopardy. Carp made his case to stay. He went 1-3 as DH, including a 2 run homer in the 8th to tie the game 6-6.. Pierzynski was the only Sox batter with multiple hits, a double & a single, before being replaced. He did twist his ankle, but, like Peavy, the injury isn't believed to be serious.
This was to be Jake "Duckboat" Peavy's 1st Spring Training start, but he cut his non-pitching hand with a fishing knife and was unavailable. The injury isn't serious and he said he expects to be back throwing on Tuesday.
The Sox are taking it slow with their starting pitching this year. Felix Doubront, who was very good Sunday, is the only projected starter to have pitched so far, although Clay Buccholz is scheduled to make his 1st start Tuesday..
Peavy's absence opened the door for Brandon Workman to show he can perform as the "fill-in" starter role as needed. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way as he was hit hard.
The Good:He became the 1st Sox pitcher to go more than 2 innings. He struck out 4 in 2 1/3 innings He threw 24 pitches, 21 for strikes
The Bad:He gave up two 2 run HRs He got only one batter out before being replaced with one out in the third His final line - 2 1/3 Innings, 5 runs (all earned), 5 hits, 4 Ks, 19.25 ERA
The 1st appearance by Koji Uehara was a success. He pitched a scoreless 3rd inning with 2 strikeouts.
Junichi Tazawa also was seen for the 1st time, pitching a one hit scoreless 4th, while Burke Badenhop gave up two hits and no runs in his one inning of work.
Young (21) lefthander Henry Owens was tagged with the loss, pitching 2 innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out two while not walking a batter.
ANOTHER DAY...ANOTHER GAME
Those who live by the glass is half empty theory are starting to get a little antzy as the Sox are now 1-3 this spring. Meanwhile, others are realistically waiting and watching to see if this year's team can be put together to make another run like last year.
It's still way too early to have any answers. We have yet to see anything close to resembling the true starting line-up. Shane Victorino, Jon Lester, Clay Buccholz, John Lackey & Jake Peavy have yet to make their 1st appearances.
So relax...kick back...and remember, there's almost always another game tomorrow! Clay Buchholz will make his first Grapefruit League start in Tuesday's 1:05 p.m. ET home game against the Rays. According to the Sox, Grady Sizemore, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks are all likely to be in the starting lineup.
See, it's Spring Training and everything is still right with the world.