1) Why the Red Sox were not desperate to retain Stephen Drew.
2) Why, though they had to swallow hard before doing so, they were willing to trade Jose Iglesias and his magic glove.
The beauty of spring training is that you never know when or where the next coming-out party will be, and who will emerge from the shadows to declare themselves a major leaguer-in-waiting.
Last spring it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., grabbing us with the virtuosity of his all-around play in Fort Myers. In 2005, it was a cocky Class A reliever named Jonathan Papelbon, who responded to a teammate being hit by a pitch in Fort Lauderdale by buzzing slugger Sammy Sosa with a high, hard one.
And Thursday afternoon here in Roger Dean Stadium, with the Red Sox leaving nearly all of their regulars back in Fort Myers, 23-year-old shortstop Deven Marrero, who went to high school about 70 minutes away from here (American Heritage School in Plantation), became the latest Red Sox rookie to seize his moment.
"My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said after a scoreless game between the Sox and Miami Marlins that was shortened to 7 2/3 innings by a late-afternoon deluge.
Farrell didn't bite on comparing Marrero to Iglesias, whose wizardry afield might have no precedent in Sox history.
"But you'd be hard-pressed to find a shortstop that's going to make better plays than that -- and four or five types of plays inside a given game," Farrell said. "He came into the draft with that carrying card, an elite defender, and he's showing that."
Left-handed reliever Drake Britton was the beneficiary of Marrero going airborne in the fifth, hurdling the onrushing Casey McGehee to make a strong relay while parallel to the earth.
"He's unbelievable out there," Britton said. "You saw the plays he made out there today. It's very, very comforting to have him behind you up the middle."
None of this comes as a revelation to general manager Ben Cherington, vice president Mike Hazen, scouting director Amiel Sawdaye, farm director Ben Crockett and the rest of the Sox baseball operations staff. There was a reason they drafted him out of Arizona State in the first round of the 2012 draft, and why last spring they made him the first position player since Scott Hatteberg in 1992 to be invited to big league camp after just one year of pro ball.
But even if it was just an exhibition game in March, Marrero's performance Thursday was just a public validation, at the big league level, of why the Sox value him the way they do.
"Defense is my thing," Marrero said. "I'm ready every pitch. Everything else just happens, it flows. Everything happens so quick, you just react."
The focus this spring in Sox camp has been on another shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, whose own coming-out party came not in spring training but in the World Series, with his uncommon maturity and poise, combined with extraordinary talent, marking him as a player on the cusp of stardom. But Marrero's presence raises some enticing possibilities for the future.
Will Marrero's defense lead the Sox to move Bogaerts to third to accommodate Marrero? Should third baseman Will Middlebrooks invest in a first baseman's glove? Could Marrero or Middlebrooks become a valuable chip in a high-stakes trade?
Marrero made just four errors in 407 chances at Class A Salem last season. As a comparison, 19-year-old Derek Jeter made 56 errors while playing in the same Carolina League. It's an apples-and-oranges thing, likening a polished college player like Marrero to Jeter when he was barely a year out of high school. Still, Marrero was rated as the best defensive player in the Sox system. He made just two more errors when he was promoted to Double-A Portland last August.
"I don't look ahead," Marrero said. "I like to think, just do my thing, let everything take care of itself. All that stuff is out of my hands. Xander is a great player. He's where he is for a reason. They trust him for a reason. He's an All-Star caliber player. I wish the best of luck for him and the Red Sox. I want them to win. That's what we're here for."
There is an easy response to any conjecture about Marrero's future: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Marrero has just 650 professional at-bats, and while his career progression is only slightly behind that of another former ASU star, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Marrero has work to do. Other than establishing himself as a base-stealing threat -- he stole 27 bases in 29 attempts in 2013 -- Marrero's offensive performance has been modest to date. His minor league slash line reads .258/.345/.338/.684.
Still, the early returns in camp have been encouraging: He had two hits Thursday, giving him four in his first eight spring at-bats. And remember, they said Iggy wouldn't hit, either.
"It's all about just the trust they have in young players," Marrero said. "Xander Bogaerts last year. Drake Britton. Brandon Workman. The trust they have in developing young players, minor league players. When they're ready to go to the big leagues, they know they will perform, because they know they will be ready.
"So when my time comes, my chance comes, I'll be ready for it. I'm just going to try my hardest every day, do what I can do, and let the rest take care of itself."
And one day, we might all remember a soggy March afternoon in Jupiter.
Marrero magic: The rookie shortstop, who was born in Miami and went to high school at the American Heritage School in nearby Plantation, drew raves for his defense. "My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said.
Advance screening: Webster had a terrific three-inning outing, one which took him only 30 pitches to complete. He did not walk a batter, struck out one, and induced seven ground-ball outs among the nine outs he recorded.
It helped, he said, to have a video session with the Sox veteran pitchers, who took their cue from pitching coach Juan Nieves and invited the kid to do a little film study.
"They saw me drifting forward, and they pulled me aside and told me to stay back over the rubber and get more angle, get more downhill to the plate," Webster said.
"I think what it does, it eliminates some of the over-rotating where he'll misfire either to his arm side or yank some balls down and away," Farrell said. "It keeps him a little bit more north and south, kept the sinker on the plate, which was a pitch that he got a number of outs with."
"I enjoy seeing them," Saltalamacchia said of his former mates. "We had a great year last year, but it's at that point in time to move on. I'm over here now with great pitchers. That was the No. 1 thing when I signed here, I saw the starting pitching staff and thought it would be nice to work with these guys and start our own history here."
Dot, dot, dots: Parcells was a guest of Marlins GM Dan Jennings. ... Swihart, Boston's highly regarded catching prospect, singled in his only at-bat. He also stole a base and threw out a Marlins runner attempting to steal. "Blake can run, man," said Marrero, who played with Swihart in Salem. "He stole a lot of bases [7 in 15 attempts]. He's very athletic, a very talented player. You saw his arm, you saw his bat, you saw his legs. A very special player." ... Cecchini, meanwhile, who has been widely praised for his mature approach at the plate, struck out in all four of his at-bats. ... Back in Fort Myers, John Lackey struck out six of the nine batters he faced in a simulated game. Farrell said both Lester and Lackey should be able to go three innings when they return to exhibition play. ... Shane Victorino had another good day working out. ... David Ross, who had been bothered by an inflamed tendon in his foot, is expected to catch Friday against his former team, the Braves, in JetBlue Park. ... A.J. Pierzynski, held back after rolling his left ankle for the second time Tuesday in Bradenton, worked out Thursday, and if he reports no issues Friday will be back in the catching rotation, Farrell said. ... Infield coach Brian Butterfield stayed back in Fort Myers to put the infield through an intensive workout. ... Left-hander Felix Doubront is scheduled to start against the Braves.
Lefty Grove: Born 1900
There's an argument to be made that Lefty Grove is the greatest pitcher of all time, although few people make that argument. His career record of 300-141 (a .680 winning percentage) says a lot, but his nine ERA titles say even more. For example, here is the list of most ERA titles:
Lefty Grove: 9
Roger Clemens: 7
Christy Mathewson: 5
Walter Johnson: 5
Sandy Koufax: 5
Pedro Martinez: 5
But that doesn't even tell the whole story, how much better Grove often was compared to the No. 2 or No. 3 guys. At his peak in 1930 and 1931 (he went 28-5 and 31-4 those two seasons) he towered over the league. His 2.54 ERA in 1930 was close a run per game better than Wes Ferrell's 3.31. Grove's 2.06 ERA in 1931 far outpaced Lefty Gomez's 2.67 and Bump Hadley's 3.06. He won five ERA titles with the Philadelphia A's and then four more with the Red Sox.
If you don't like ERA, we can look at most times leading your league in WAR:
Lefty Grove: 8
Walter Johnson: 8
Roger Clemens: 7
Cy Young: 6
Pete Alexander: 6
Randy Johnson: 6
OK, maybe those two categories emphasize peak value over career value. Career WAR for pitchers:
Cy Young: 170.3
Walter Johnson: 152.3
Roger Clemens: 139.4
Pete Alexander: 117.0
Kid Nichols: 116.6
Lefty Grove: 109.9
Tom Seaver: 106.3
Greg Maddux: 104.6
Randy Johnson: 104.3
Phil Niekro: 97.4
Of the five guys ahead of Grove, four pitched in a different era of baseball, when home runs were non-existent and pitchers threw huge totals of innings. Clemens is the only pitcher who rates higher who didn't get the advantage of pitching in the so-called dead-ball era.
Another thing to consider: Grove didn't reach the majors until he was 25 years old. He pitched five seasons for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, going 108-36 before owbner was finally sold to the Athletics for $100,600 -- the Athletics outbidding the Cubs and Dodgers, who had offered $100,000. It's true that Grove may not have been a perfectly polished pitcher upon arriving in the majors -- he had a 4.75 ERA his first season. But he led the league in ERA his second season when he stopped overthrowing as much and threw his fastball with better command. Maybe he wouldn't have won 108 games in the majors if he'd spent those years in Philadelphia instead of Baltimore but he probably could have won another 75 to 80. Give him 375 wins instead of 300 and he'd be remembered more often as one of the greatest.
How hard did Grove throw? He often used just the one pitch during his days with the A's. "When planes take off from a ship, they say they catapult," Yankees shortstop Frankie Crosetti once said.
"That's what his fastball did halfway to the plate. He threw just plain fastballs -- he didn’t need anything else." Teammate Doc Cramer said, "All he had was a fastball. Everybody knew what they were going to hit at, but they still couldn't hit him." Writer Bugs Baer famously once wrote that "Lefty Grove could throw a lamb chop past a wolf."
It's probably not much of an exaggeration to suggest Grove threw only fastballs. He definitely added a curveball later in his career and even a forkball, and Connie Mack, his manager with the A's, said Grove didn't really learn to pitch until he was traded to the Red Sox. (Grove suffered an arm injury in 1934, his first with Boston, and didn't throw as hard after that.) An article in Baseball Magazine from 1934 quotes his Philadelphia catcher Mickey Cochrane as saying, "I'll admit when Grove broke into the league he had little else except his fast ball. But he has learned a lot. He has a pretty fair change of pace and a very serviceable curve."
Grove was known for his fiery temper, directed at both teammates and opponents. "Did I get sore at my teammates? Did I yell at (Joe) Cronin? Yes sir. Guess I did. I was out there to win. That's the only way to play the game," he admitted in a 1961 AP story.
Karl Best: Born 1959
Unless you're a Mariners fan from the '80s, you're unlikely to remember Best, who had a short career as a reliever. I mention him because he graduated from Kent-Meridian High School in Kent, Wash., just outside of Seattle. He was a local kid who made good. I went to rival Kentridge and my mom worked with his mother for a time. Best was a big kid, threw hard, had trouble throwing strikes and moved his way slowly through the minors. For one brief period, however, it all came together for him. After brief major league trials in 1983 and 1984, he pitched well the first three months of the 1985 season. Appearing in 15 games and pitching 32.1 innings, he had a 1.95 ERA and four saves. For the first time in his career, he was throwing strikes: He had 32 strikeouts and just six walks. On June 20, he pitched three scoreless innings against the Rangers to get the save. He had become a fixture in the Seattle bullpen.
And that was it. He hurt his shoulder and had surgery and missed the rest of the season. He would pitch in 26 games the next season and a few more with the Twins in 1988, but he wasn't the same pitcher and didn't pitch again after 1988. Had he turned the corner in 1985? Who knows. It was just 32 innings but it was a dominant 32 innings. Maybe something had clicked, a delivery tweaked. My inclination is to believe that he would have remained a good pitcher if he hadn't gotten hurt. But, sadly, that's part of baseball, fields littered with pitchers who once threw 95.
(Here's a story from the Seattle Times in 2007. At the time, Best was still living in the Seattle area and owned a construction company. The story mentions his daughter Amanda, a high school basketball player at the time. She went on to play four years at New Mexico, where she was an all-conference player and third-team Academic All-America majoring in biochemistry.)
Here are five:
--If starter Allen Webster does better in the first inning. The Sox are trying to figure out how to get him in the flow earlier.
--The progress of third baseman Garin Cecchini, who has been drawing raves for his mature approach at the plate.
--Shortstop Deven Marrero. One Sox talent evaluator described his defense as "brilliant," which is another reason Sox were able to part with Jose Iglesias.
--Whether Jackie Bradley Jr. will start to go off the way he did last spring. Hasn't happened so far.
--Whether lefty reliever Drake Britton can repeat his dominating first effort (4 K's in 2 innings).
“We’re in jeopardy at a point," manager John Farrell said of the chance of a washout. “It just depends on when it gets here. Whether it’s right at 1 o’clock, or 2 o’clock.
“If you recall, in 2008, we had to come back for a makeup game."
No recollection here.
“We haven’t forgotten," Farrell said.
Not that many of the regular Sox players would be inconvenienced by a rainout. Jackie Bradley Jr. is the only position player in the Sox lineup who remotely resembles a regular, and it’s not much different on the pitching side, with Allen Webster making the start. That will come as a disappointment to the legions of Sox fans on this side.
“You’re dealing with travel, you’re dealing with availability of players, you’re dealing with what we’re trying to get done," Farrell said, alluding to the MLB preference that teams bring a minimum of four regulars on the road.
“Today is a huge day for our entire infield, with Brian (Butterfield, infield coach) back at home, and we earmark this day on the calendar to do just that. The integrity of the game, and for what the fans pay in order to come and see, you take that into account, but still our team is our priority and the individual needs our guys have. That’s where we are."
Here are the lineups. And take our word for it: With the exception of the DH, which they don’t use in the National League, and at first base, where Garrett Jones is getting the day off, the Marlins are playing their “A” team, which includes former Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamaccchia.
1. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
2. Alex Hassan, LF
3. Garin Cecchini, 3B
4. Ryan Lavarnway, C
5. Travis Shaw, 1B
6. Brandon Snyder, DH
7. Bryce Brentz, RF
8. Deven Marrero, SS
9. Heiker Meneses, 2B
Allen Webster, RHP
1. Rafael Furcal, 2B
2. Christian Yelich, LF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Casey McGehee, 3B
7. Greg Dobbs, DH
8. Ed Lucas, 1B
9. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
"We had a son on Dec. 26, and he was born with multiple issues that we confronted and had to deal with as we were moving through the last couple of months at Mass General," Hill said. "Unfortunately he succumbed and he has passed. He taught us a lot of things, and unfortunately things didn't work out.
"My wife has been extremely strong. Our son, who is 2½, is with us here down in Florida, so we are going to enjoy our time here and obviously make the most of the opportunity that's here to present itself to play baseball."
Hill, a Milton, Mass., native who pitched for Boston from 2010 to 2012 and made 63 appearances with the Cleveland Indians in 2013, signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox during the offseason so he could remain close to his family.
He expressed gratitude toward the staff at Massachusetts General Hospital and said the Red Sox "have been tremendous."
Six-foot-four Jared Brentz has at least four inches over his twin brother, and a build that bears a greater resemblance to Charlie Brentz, their father who played football both ways for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Last spring, no one was expecting Jackie Bradley Jr. to win a job out of camp, either, so Brentz said he and fellow outfielder Alex Hassan, who figure to continue their apprenticeship in Pawtucket, know that they might be one injury away from a big league call-up.
"Yeah, you get to this point, we know it's there," Brentz said the other day. "Jackie had a great spring training, and boom, he's up there. Guys like Hass and I are working hard. We've got to be ready if our name is called."
There's something else, by the way, you should probably know about the Brentz twins, which might shed some insight into how competitive they are. Jared had both of his feet amputated as a child. He was born with a rare disease called arthrogryposis, which left him with club feet. Bryce was delivered first. Jared, as he has described it, was tucked in under his mother Cyndi's ribs.
"Basically his knees were up in his chest," Bryce said.
By the age of 9, Jared had undergone three surgeries. When he was 12, he elected amputation, which in his mind was better than the alternatives, winding up in a wheelchair or walking freakishly.
Now, with prosthetics, he's hitting drives 350 yards and longer and winning national amputee long drive competitions. He's also working for a security firm while pursuing a degree in criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security at Middle Tennessee State.
He and Bryce give each other no quarter, which is about the way it's always been.
"I never saw my brother as handicapped," Bryce said. "Four months after his [amputation] surgery, he was still rehabbing, and had a cast on his feet up to his knees. He was in a wheelchair, and he threw me a ball.
"I had to kind of jump for it, and I got mad. I threw it at him kind of hard and it hit him in the chest. We always competed. Sometimes we wanted to kill each other, like most brothers. I never treated him as handicapped, and he doesn't want to be treated that way. Most of the time you can't tell he's a double amputee."
It was only a minor wound, but the Red Sox rescinded their invitation. Brentz remained in the minor league clubhouse, except for the odd summons to be an extra player in an exhibition game.
"Everyone killed me," he said. "I killed myself. We kind of joked about it, too, just to get over it. The jokes were worse than the experience.
"It's done, it's in the past. I'm glad nothing bad happened. I have to laugh at myself. The Red Sox had to make their decision and I respected it, I understood it. It was my mistake, and I had to take responsibility, own up to it."
Mistake acknowledged, career resumed. Brentz's summer was interrupted by an injury to his right knee that required surgery to repair a torn meniscus, but despite playing just 88 games, he hit 19 home runs (including two he hit while rehabbing in the Gulf Coast League), tied for most in the Sox minor league system.
In four minor league seasons, the right-handed hitting Brentz is averaging one home run per every 21.6 at-bats. Compare that to Will Middlebrooks, who is valued for his right-handed power. In the minors, Middlebrooks averaged a home run every 27.88 at-bats.
What remains to be seen is whether Brentz can harness his aggressiveness into greater plate discipline. Last season, in 349 plate appearances in Pawtucket, he struck out 86 times while drawing just 20 walks. He's aware of what he needs to do. It was what he tried to do playing for Escogido in the Dominican winter league, though he ran into a problem not uncommon for a first-time visitor.
"I was sick the first couple of weeks, getting used to the food and water," he said. "I was out of my element.
"But I worked on my defense and I worked on seeing a lot of pitches, which is not my nature. I didn't have results hitting-wise, but I got to do some work that helped."
That work continues in the Sox clubhouse, where he sits next to Bradley Jr., with whom he has forged a close relationship as they came up in the minors.
"Me and him, we have that type of bond, we're almost like brothers," Bradley Jr., says. "We can bicker and argue -- we don't really argue, but we're so comfortable with each other we can talk to each other about anything. We joke around about this and that; other people might take offense to it but that's just how close we've become.
"And as a ballplayer, he has raw talent, extreme power. The ball sounds different coming off his bat. Him and [Xander] Bogaerts, it literally sounds different off his bat."
It's a sound yet to be heard off Brentz's bat in Boston. But keep your ear to the ground. It's getting closer.
In games that counted last season, Boston never lost more than three straight games all year.
But relax, Red Sox fans, it’s only spring training. And, as a bonus, at least three Boston players turned in positive performances on Wednesday: shortstop Xander Bogaerts, left fielder Daniel Nava and Christian Vazquez.
Here’s a closer look:
* Bogaerts, batting third, went 1-for-2 with a two-run homer and a walk.
He struck out his first time up, chasing a pitch up and away for strike two and getting caught looking for the punch out.
“It was awesome,” Bogaerts said when asked how he felt about the homer. “For the past few days, I’ve been hitting a lot of line drives right at people. So it was good to hit one where no one was at.”
Bogaerts, 21, said he had some timing issues in the beginning of camp, which left him chasing pitches instead of letting the ball get to him.
He’s made the adjustment, though, and the native of Aruba seems poised to show what he can accomplish when given the opportunity.
“Xander has swung the bat really well in spring training,” manager John Farrell said. “Even the other day, he hit a couple of hard line outs.
“He looks comfortable at the plate. He is an exciting young player. We are going to need production from him.”
* Nava, batting leadoff, went 1-for-2 with a solo homer, a walk and a strikeout. He also got picked off at first base.
“He’s a candidate to hit lead off against certain starting pitchers,” Farrell said. “He has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and, if he does that, certainly we will take it.
“But his at-bats haven’t changed despite the slot in the lineup that he has occupied.”
Nava, 31, had an excellent .385 on-base percentage last season. He also had 29 doubles and 12 homers and scored 77 runs, numbers good enough that he should find a home somewhere in the lineup, which is all he cares about.
“I’m not looking at leadoff any differently than any other spot,” he said. “The only time it’s any different is the first inning. Besides that first time, it’s still the same approach. How many times after that will I lead off an inning?”
As for the pickoff, when he got caught by lefty reliever Randy Choate, Nava said he was going on first move and just guessed wrong.
Nava said baserunning is a point of emphasis for him this year.
“That applies to whether I am batting fifth or leadoff,” he said. “It doesn’t mean to steal more bases. It means as an overall baserunner, go from first to third, take that extra base when I can.”
* Vazquez went 2-for-3 and threw out two runners trying to steal.
“He was great,” veteran pitcher Chris Capuano said of Vazquez. “From the first day I threw a bullpen session to him, he was asking me what pitches I like to throw, what counts, how I want him to set up.
“He is very eager to learn and has a good head for the game.”
Vazquez, 23, is a native of Puerto Rico and was Boston’s ninth-round pick in 2008. He played 96 of his 97 games at Double A last season, batting .287 overall with five homers and 48 RBIs.
But Vazquez’s defensive skills are what set him apart.
“Physically, he is very gifted,” Capuano said. “He receives the ball well, throws the ball well. You can tell he has a passion for what he is doing. I enjoyed working with him.”
It just wasn’t very evident in Wednesday’s 8-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Things got much worse from there for Ranaudo, who pitched 1 1/3 innings and allowed six hits, two walks and five runs, three earned.
“I didn’t execute pitches,” Ranaudo said. “I didn’t throw strikes. I didn’t fill up the zone. I was getting out of my delivery, and I think you saw the result of that.
“It’s going to be an interesting five days (until his next outing) because I have a lot of work to do,” he added.
One of Ranaudo’s issues was that once he lost a bit of command, he compounded his problems by trying to aim the ball and, in the process, caused a drop in his velocity. All of a sudden, a fastball that was consistently 92 to 94 became 89 to 90, and the Cardinals took advantage.
“That’s probably one of the worst things I could have done is try to place the ball,” Ranaudo said. “I should have just trusted my stuff, been aggressive and gone after guys.
“I don’t know if I did it consciously -- if you are talking about a drop in my velocity -- but I’m sure it goes with not being able to repeat my delivery.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell said he didn’t want to “single out” Ranaudo.
“As a staff, what we’ve shown the first six days of games is that we have to pitch better in terms of controlling the count,” Farrell said.
Ranaudo seemed to struggle with his breaking pitches even more than his fastball. Time and again, he tried to change speeds to get ahead in the count 0-1 ... only to miss badly.
Ranaudo said his off-speed pitches come “natural” to him, but that Wednesday was not indicative of where he’s at with that pitch.
“Normally, I am consistent and confident with my breaking stuff, and I can throw it for strikes and as an out pitch,” he said. “But today it was out of whack and kind of ended up in the lefty batting box, and that's not traditionally how I throw my breaking ball.
“It was just not a good day," he said. "I wasn’t hitting any spots. I need to do a better job of making in-game adjustments. Luckily it’s still the first week of March, and I have a lot of time to figure it out.”
In his first at-bat, he worked the count before flying out to fairly deep center field. No doubt, he just missed a homer on that swing.
The next time up, Bradley, a lefty hitter, faced a difficult matchup. Reliever Randy Choate, a side-winding lefty, got ahead of Bradley 1-and-2, including one strike on a breaking ball in the dirt when the Red Sox center fielder could not check his swing. Bradley got a reprieve when Daniel Nava was picked off of first base. Unfortunately for Bradley, Choate was still on the mound the next inning. Choate again got ahead, this time 0-and-2, and got a strikeout on a 76-mph breaking ball.
Bradley redeemed himself on his next plate appearance, drawing a full-count walk against right-handed reliever Angel Castro. Bradley came around to score.
From the manager: Farrell was satisfied with the debut of starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who went two innings and gave up two runs on three hits and one walk.
“For his first outing (of the spring), I thought he threw quality strikes and pitched rather than rely on pure stuff,” Farrell said.
Farrell was less pleased with his infielders, who were charged with three errors -- one apiece for Middlebrooks at third, Deven Marrero at short and Heiker Meneses at second.
“It was a tough day defensively,” Farrell said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do as a team. It was a tough day for Will (especially), but it was compounded by pitching behind in the count. We’ve got to do a better job of pitching in the strike zone.”
He wasn’t very productive -- two runs allowed on three hits and one walk.
He didn’t throw very hard -- the veteran hit 90 mph but that was as good as it got for his fastball.
And even something Capuano usually does really well -- get lefty hitters out -- failed him a bit when he gave up a walk to Jon Jay.
That walk preceded a two-run homer to left by minor-league first baseman Xavier Scruggs.
Capuano fell behind 3-1 to Scruggs and came in with a get-me-over 84 mph pitch that quickly left the yard. Scruggs is such an unknown that Capuano called him “Scaggs” by mistake.
Asked if the wind was a factor, Capuano responded: “A little bit ... It was definitely windy, but that Scaggs put a good swing on that ball. I was trying to throw a two-seamer down and away, and I just pulled it down the middle of the plate.”
In case you were wondering, the 26-year-old Scruggs -- or Scaggs if you prefer -- played Double-A last season, where he hit 29 homers.
Capuano, who will likely start the season in Boston’s bullpen barring an injury to a starter, gave up two singles in Wednesday’s first inning but got out of trouble largely due to the comebacker he induced from Jhonny Peralta, which he fielded and converted into a double play.
In his career, Capuano has held lefty hitters to a .632 OPS, eighth-best among pitchers since the start of 2003 (minimum 1,000 batters faced).
He appeared in 24 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, including 20 starts. He landed on the disabled list twice -- once for a calf strain and once for a shoulder injury -- and finished 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA.
After Wednesday’s outing, he said he felt good.
“I threw all four of my pitches,” he said. “For the most part, it felt like I had pretty good location.”
Capuano said he got eight bullpen sessions in Arizona before signing with Boston on Feb. 22, and he said he is ready for any role.
“For the past three or four years, I’ve had some really great experiences,” he said. “That has helped me be flexible and prepared.”
Boston has more pitching depth than it has had in recent memory, with a bevy of potential impact major league starters at the upper levels of the system, together with several intriguing young hurlers who could eventually contribute out of the bullpen.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS
LHP Henry Owens, 21, was a supplemental first-round pick in 2011. The 6-foot-7 left-hander spent a significant portion of the 2013 season in High-A Salem, posting a 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and striking out 123 batters over 20 starts in 104.2 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Portland on Aug. 1 and went on to start six games for the Sea Dogs. Owens posted a 1.78 ERA and struck out 46 batters over 30.1 innings in his brief Double-A stint. His arsenal includes an 89-92 mph fastball, an excellent mid-70s curveball, and an above-average low-80s changeup. Due to his height and arm action, his fastball appears to the hitter to come in faster than its actual velocity. Owens also should be able to add some additional sitting velocity over the next couple seasons as he adds strength. (Had he not signed with Boston, he would currently be a junior at the University of Miami.) He projects as a No. 3 starter, but still has some work to do to get there, particularly in improving his fastball command. However, Owens could also develop into a No. 2 starter if he adds velocity and refines his command.
RHP Matt Barnes, 23, is about to start his third full season in the Sox system. The 2011 first-round pick spent all but one start of the 2013 season with Portland, where he went 5-10 with a 4.33 ERA, 135 strikeouts, and 46 walks in 108 innings. He was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 29 and is expected to break camp with the PawSox this season. Barnes projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He features a fastball that sits in the 91-95 mph range and tops out around 98 mph, throwing the pitch with solid-average command. He also throws an average curveball with plus potential and an average-but-developing changeup. He still needs to work on durability and refining his secondary stuff, both of which were identified as development areas in 2013.
LHP Trey Ball, 19, was drafted seventh overall in the first round of the 2013 draft, at which time scouts tabbed him as "Henry Owens with a better fastball." The 6-foot-6 lefty weighed in at 185 upon signing with the Red Sox, leaving him a lot of room to fill out and add strength. His fastball currently sits in the 91-95 mph range, and is complemented by a plus-potential changeup and a work-in-progress curveball. He has smooth, low-effort pitching mechanics and repeats his delivery well for his age. He also doesn't have a lot of miles on his arm. A talented hitter and outfielder, Ball was among the top two-way players in the 2013 draft, and had been committed to the University of Texas prior to signing with Boston. He should begin the 2014 season with Low-A Greenville.
RHP Teddy Stankiewicz was Boston's second-round draft pick in 2013 (No. 45 overall), signing for a $1.1 million bonus. At 6-foot-4, 215, he has an ideal pitcher's frame with room for growth. Stankiewicz also has a loose, 3/4 delivery which doesn't need a whole lot of tweaking. His fastball presently sits at 89-94 mph with decent command, and he should be able to add 1-2 mph as he adds more size. The 20-year-old also mixes in a low-80s changeup and an 11-to-5 curveball, both of which have solid potential. Like Ball, he is expected to start the 2014 season with Greenville.
LHP Brian Johnson, 23, posted a 2.54 ERA and 1.12 WHIP while striking out 84 batters in 85.0 innings between stops in Salem, Greenville, and two rehab starts in the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League. A 2012 first-round pick out of Florida, the left-hander has an 89-93 mph fastball (which tops out at 94-95 mph in short bursts), an average curveball, and an average changeup. Johnson made only two appearances with Salem in 2013, but still might be a candidate to break camp with Portland this year. If he starts with Salem, he shouldn't be there for long. At this point, Johnson projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a setup man.
Others to Watch: RHP Dalier Hinojosa, RHP Jamie Callahan, RHP Ty Buttrey
Major League Insurance: RHP Steven Wright, RHP John Ely
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE RELIEVERS
RHP Noe Ramirez, 24, was Boston's fourth-round pick in 2011, selected out of Cal State Fullerton. He worked as a starter this point last spring, when he tweaked his delivery to become a sidearmer and started working out of the bullpen. Between stops in Salem and Portland, Ramirez went 3-2 with 6 saves, a 2.38 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, 75 strikeouts, and 17 walks in 55 innings. He throws an 89-93 mph fastball, a solid-average changeup, and a decent slider, all with very good command and deception. He may begin the 2014 season as Portland's closer, but should be in Pawtucket before the year is out.
RHP Simon Mercedes, 22, signed with Boston as an international amateur at the age of 20, after having his first pro contract with the Giants voided by Major League Baseball. A live arm with solid potential, the Dominican righty throws a 91-96 mph fastball, as well as a curveball and changeup -- both of which need a lot of work. His command is average at this point. Mercedes spent the 2013 season with Short-A Lowell, and should work as a piggyback starter in 2014, either in Greenville or Salem.
RHP Luis Diaz, 21, had a breakout year in 2013, posting a 1.96 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 101.0 innings as a starter with Greenville and Salem. The big Dominican right-hander throws an 89-92 mph fastball and a solid 82-84 mph changeup. His fastball will probably get up t the mid-90s if he's converted to the pen. He may end up as Salem's opening day starter this year, but his stuff is better suited for the bullpen over the long term.
LHP Cody Kukuk, 20, had a mediocre 2013 season with Greenville after missing most of the 2012 season due to a suspension for off-field issues. A tall lefty with a 91-93 mph fastball, a decent slider, and a developing changeup, Kukuk could be part of Salem's rotation with Diaz when April rolls around, but he's a candidate for an eventual move to the bullpen. In either situation, he needs to significantly improve his control this year -- he walked 81 batters in 107 innings in 2013.
Others to Watch: RHP Myles Smith, LHP Corey Littrell, RHP Keith Couch
Major League Insurance: RHP Alex Wilson, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Brayan Villarreall
Ticket brokers who didn't follow through with the tickets they sold in the hours after Derek Jeter's retirement are being held accountable by resale ticket marketplace StubHub.
The site informed those who sold tickets, but then relisted them to try to get a higher price, that they now have the choice of honoring the original sale or they can keep the current listing, but Stubhub will find tickets at the current market price for the original buyer and charge the broker's credit card.
Those who already sold the ticket at a relisted price also will have to pay Stubhub a fee to provide tickets to the original buyer for the game they had purchased.
StubHub allows sellers to cancel sales, but not in the quantity that happened after Jeter announced his retirement on Feb 13. In the hour after Jeter's announcement, the cheapest ticket to the Yankees' final game of the 2014 season against the Red Sox at Fenway rose from $26 to more than $200, while the listing on all tickets rose by more than 250 percent.
"These sellers abused the policies in our user agreement and as a result, we have reached out to them," StubHub spokesman Cameron Papp said.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was the afternoon of Game 4 of the World Series, and they were in Joe Buck's, the St. Louis barbecue place just a short walk from Busch Stadium, father and son, sitting across the table from each other. The father, graying but still youthful looking, with hands that have known a hard day's work. The son, tall and skinny, long strands of hair framing his bearded face.
The father, Gordon "Skip" Buchholz, 33 years a millwright in a Texas oil refinery, spoke first.
"Are you nervous?" he said.
"Listen, buddy," the father said. "I know you're not 100 percent, but you can beat them tonight. Even if you're throwing 85 miles an hour, just cut and sink the ball, stay out of the middle of the plate, miss the fat part of the bat. You can beat them tonight."'
Indeed, Christian Vazquez, the 23-year-old catcher who last spring played for Double-A Portland, appears on an accelerated path to the big leagues. One National League scout said this week he would take Vazquez right now on his defensive prowess alone and would live with whatever struggles he might have at the plate. He first showed off his arm in big league camp last spring, and this spring he has thrown out all 11 runners who have attempted to run on him, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Farrell says Vazquez's offense is coming.
Vazquez spoke Tuesday about how Rays catcher Jose Molina, a fellow Puerto Rican, has offered assistance on that path.
“We worked out, long-tossed and talked a lot -- good things,’’ Vazquez said. “He’s helped me calling games, read swings, helped me to trust yourself and have good communication with the pitchers -- especially veterans like Lester and Lackey, but with everybody.
“I love to listen to him because he’s a veteran guy. He knows a lot. That’s good for me. I’m a young player and I want to learn a lot.’’
Molina, 38, is entering his 15th season in the big leagues.
“I can’t say we went to the bullpen and practiced a lot,’’ Molina said, “but what we practiced was a lot of mind stuff, what he could retain and use. A lot of work ethic, work habits, how to spot different situations, a lot of little things that can help.
“Pretty much we were on the mindset of keeping his head up, knowing he was just a step away from the big leagues and with his talent, it could be any time. He’s got to take advantage of that situation because that situation is going to come only once and you don’t want to let it go.’’
Molina said he has seen Vazquez only a handful of times, including a couple of times catching winter ball in Puerto Rico.
“But when you hear a guy’s name, there’s a reason, right?’’ he said. “He’s doing something good and doing something right. One of my things is to keep continuing that. Don’t go backwards -- keep moving forward, be even better.’’
Sox catcher David Ross, who is known for his arm, told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that Vazquez reminds him of Yadier Molina, Jose’s younger brother, who is considered the best defensive catcher in the game. Puerto Rico has a tradition of producing great catchers, including Benito Santiago, Sandy Alomar Jr., Pudge Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Javy Lopez and the Molina brothers (Jose, Yadier and Bengie).
Jose Molina said he hasn’t seen enough of Vazquez to say whether the comparison is valid: “He’s following my brother, so he’s following the best catcher in the game right now; so he’s a good guy to follow. I wish I was younger, so I could follow him too. That’s the best example he can follow, my brother.’’
Molina acknowledged talking with Vazquez about the importance of communicating with the pitcher.
“I always say communicating with the pitcher is the most important thing,’’ he said. “It’s like [with] your brother, with my brothers. I know everything about my brothers. They know everything about me.
“I love my pitchers; they are my brothers. I don’t have my brothers close, so they are my closest brothers. I have learned everything about them, [so when they are doing something wrong], I can pass the message to them.’’
Molina said he enjoys mentoring, but the real reward is seeing a player such as Vazquez make it.
“The best thing you see is these guys making strides, getting better and better, and someday they will be here,’’ Molina said. “That’s the best thing.’’
But for those of you inclined not to look at life through the bottom of a broken glass, the positive developments included Clay Buchholz bearing no resemblance to the guy pitching on fumes in the World Series, Grady Sizemore registering another five innings under his belt with no signs of cracks, Xander Bogaerts showing this shortstop thing fits quite nicely, thank you, and Shane Victorino approaching takeoff mode.
Feats of Clay: When last seen on a mound in a game, Buchholz went four innings in survival mode, successfully holding off the Cardinals with a fatigued shoulder incapable of kicking into high gear. On Tuesday, the giddyup commenced its return, Buchholz saying he hit between 88 and 92 on the radar gun. The 94 m.p.h. he averaged in 2010 is something of a distant memory, but there’s still plenty there to get people out, as he showed last season, when after a dozen starts he was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
On Tuesday, he gave up a first-pitch double to David DeJesus to lead off the game, issued a walk to James Loney, an RBI single to Matt Joyce and an infield hit. He threw 26 pitches, 14 for strikes, his labors sufficient to skip the inning he had thought of throwing in the bullpen afterward. Before he was through, he said he mixed in some curveballs, cutters, two-seamers and changeups.
Told that manager John Farrell had described his previous bullpen sessions as “extremely encouraging,’’ Buchholz said: “That’s how I feel. I feel completely different than the last month and a half, two months of last year. That’s what I wanted to feel coming into camp, and I’ve just got keep working on it.’’
Grady meter: Sizemore, batting leadoff for the second time this spring, grounded out to second base, hit into a force play with his ground ball in the third, and was lifted for a pinch runner after walking in the fifth. And one scout agreed with Farrell’s assessment that Sizemore’s timing at the plate doesn’t resemble that of a guy who hadn’t played in a game in two years.
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. did not play Tuesday.
X file: Bogaerts hit two balls that were as hard-hit as anything by the Sox all day, and had nothing to show for it, lining out twice. He also drew a walk. In the first inning, he ranged deep in the hole to field a ground ball by Logan Forsythe and made a strong throw that was a tick late in catching the Rays’ batter. But it reinforced the Sox's contention that Bogaerts doesn’t need a change in position.
The dot, dot, dots: Victorino, who has been working to strengthen his troublesome hamstrings and back, participated in a full workout Tuesday, including his first live BP on the field. ... Jake Peavy played long toss from 120 feet and is expected to throw a bullpen Wednesday, minus a glove on his surgically repaired left index finger, a procedure that required him to be administered anesthesia. ... Jon Lester and John Lackey are scheduled to throw three-inning simulated games here on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. ... The Rays had 16 hits and 7 walks Tuesday, doing most of their damage against Rubby De La Rosa (5 H, 2 BB, 4 ER in 2 IP) and Brayan Villareal (3 H, 1 BB, 3 R, 1 IP). Loney took De La Rosa deep in the second, Sean Rodriguez homered off Villareal in the fifth. ... The Sox had eight singles, two by Alex Hassan, against seven Rays pitchers, including starter Chris Archer. The Sox hit into four double plays and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.