The result: The Sox are now 2-7-1 after Saturday’s double dip. The evening affair, as the score suggests, was uglier by far, the Sox committing six errors while managing just three hits. Sox batters also whiffed 11 times, while Sox pitchers gave up 13 hits and 6 walks. The Orioles even managed to execute a double steal against catcher Christian Vazquez, who had thrown out every runner who had attempted to run on him all spring. This, with most of the regulars in the lineup against a lightly seasoned Orioles team. It was serendipity that the Bruins were playing Saturday night, leaving NESN no option but to televise the afternoon game.
The postmortem: An exhausted Farrell: “Long day, got our reps in. We can do much better defensively, there’s no question. I can’t say there’s a common thread (in the misplays) because we had guys who played positions where they’re at (before), especially tonight, where things got away from us defensively, and yet we’re working each day to shore the infield defense up.’’
The highlights: Just two: Vazquez, after an at-bat that reached double digits in pitches, hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth for Boston’s only scoring of the night. It would have been easy for the kid to give up the at-bat, but he fouled off numerous pitches against a veteran pitcher, Troy Patton, before hitting a 3-and-2 pitch over the Monster. “He competes, there’s no question about it,’’ Farrell said. ... Orioles minor-leaguer Mike Yastrzemski, in an encore appearance here, drove in two runs, one with a ground ball, the other with a sharp single up the middle. He also played left field in front of the faux Monster; his famous grandfather owned the real one.
X files: Xander Bogaerts was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He made a nice relay on Corey Brown’s throw from center field to nail David Lough at the plate on Lough’s failed bid for an inside-the-park home run.
Dot, dot, dots: Farrell mentioned that the Sox will get through split-squad games Tuesday (Orioles, Marlins) before making any cuts. ... The errors: third baseman Jonathan Herrera made two, left fielder Jonny Gomes, second baseman Heiker Meneses, pitcher Brayan Villareal and third baseman Garin Cecchini made one apiece. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was charged with a passed ball. ... Brown and Brandon Snyder had the only Sox hits through seven innings. ... Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman was extremely sharp, keeping his plus fastball down in the zone while striking out Daniel Nava, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in his three scoreless innings (1 hit, no walks). ... Brandon Workman did a nice job pitching out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first before being touched for a couple of runs in a sloppy fourth (walk, single, error, passed ball, infield hit). “He was pressed to make some pitches early on and he did, and when he’s down in the strike zone, he’s extremely effective,’’ Farrell said. “We’ve got a guy with a good breaking ball with a couple of changeups he threw tonight that showed good separation from his fastball. He went out and did his job with what we’re looking for.’’ ... Miguel Celestino and Shunsuke Watanabe were torched during the eight-run seventh. ... Jake Peavy threw a 50-pitch bullpen session, came out of it fine, and is scheduled to make his first start Thursday.
Replay comes to the Jet: With Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays scheduled to be televised Monday afternoon by MLB Network, the Red Sox will get their first opportunity to test the new replay rules. Unlike the regular season, when a replay umpire in New York will review contested plays from a dozen angles shown by ultra-high definition television cameras, an umpire will be reviewing plays in a TV truck parked outside the ballpark.
For the first time, calls at first base, at the plate and on the bases will be reviewable. There will be limited exceptions, including the "neighborhood play" at second base.
The new replay rule will allow a team’s manager one challenge. If his challenge is upheld, he is awarded a second challenge. For the last three innings of a game, umpires are empowered to initiate a review of a play on their own, but only if a manager is out of challenges.
One Sox employee due to take on added responsibilities -- and significance -- is Billy Broadbent, the team’s video coordinator. Farrell said that Broadbent has been designated as the man who will be watching game feeds back in the clubhouse and will alert those in the dugout whether a play should be challenged. Farrell will be buying time on the field talking to the umpire until getting the thumbs up or down from bench coach Torey Lovullo whether to initiate a challenge.
Home run guru David Vincent, who is the Washington Nationals’ official scorer and will be scoring Monday’s game, noted that since home runs became reviewable in August 2008, there have been more reviews at Fenway Park (23) than any other park.
Laying the groundwork: Interesting observation made here by Jorge Arangure Jr. regarding David Ortiz’s impact on the way Latins are regarded in baseball.
“When Ortiz finally retires, he will leave behind a game that has increasingly been forced to accept a new generation of Latin players -- bold, opinionated and wealthy -- a change of attitude he helped bring about,’’ Arangure Jr. writes on the Sports On Earth website. “Soon, Ortiz believes, Latin players will not only excel on the field, but also in field managing positions, in the front office and even in Major League Baseball's offices.
"There's more of us than ever," Ortiz said. "You see a lot of young talent coming up. It's a matter of time until you'll see more Latinos in higher positions. As Latinos, we just have to be serious in our work and show them that we're capable of having these positions. That's going to open more doors."
The Sox will have most of their regulars in the lineup Saturday night against the Orioles, whose travel team will have two names of note. One is Mike Yastrzemski, the grandson of Yaz making an encore appearance as an extra player brought along for the ride. The other is Steel Russell, which is just one heckuva baseball name, isn’t it? William Steel Russell is the given name of the minor-league catcher, the son of Orioles bench coach and ex-Pirates manager John Russell.
Red Sox owner John W. Henry isn’t on the premises, but he created a bit of a ripple with a tweeted zinger directed at the Miami Marlins, who were reportedly “outraged” because the Sox sent a lineup light on regulars for their game Thursday in Jupiter.
They should apologize for their regular season lineup.— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) March 8, 2014
Henry formerly owned the Marlins, becoming sole owner in 1999 and selling the team in 2002 to current owner Jeffrey Loria. A year later, the Marlins won the World Series, and Loria also achieved the goal, never realized by Henry and cited as a reason he sold the team, of public constructon of a new ballpark. Loria went on a big spending spree prior to 2012, the Marlins’ first season in the new ballpark, then sold almost all of the team’s established stars when the Marlins underperformed.
Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations, said Friday that he had received an e-mail from Sox GM Ben Cherington during Thursday’s game.
“We got an email from their GM saying they had some injuries and were working on some things,” Hill said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He apologized, so I don't know if that meant he got a call from the league or what.”
Manager John Farrell had reiterated the explanation he’d offered before the game, that the Sox were short on regulars because of injuries (both catchers, outfielder Shane Victorino), travel (they’d played in Jupiter the day before) and a planned day of drills for the team’s infielders.
Numerous observers have called out the Marlins for foolishly jacking up ticket prices for the Sox exhibition -- from $10 to $12 a ticket as a “super premium” game, the only one of the spring.
Here are the lineups for Saturday night’s game:
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Jonny Gomes, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Corey Brown, CF
Jonathan Herrera, 3B
Brandon Workman, RHP
David Lough, CF
Jemile Weeks, 2B
Ryan Flaherty, SS
Steve Pearce, 1B
Nolan Reimold, LF
Henry Urrutia, RF
Johnny Monell, DH
Michael Almanzar, 3B
Kevin Gausman, RHP
The Sox are now 2-6-1 in Grapefruit League play, with a split squad contest at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. against Baltimore. On Sunday, the Red Sox travel to Bradenton to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game slated to start at 1:05 p.m.
Center-field competition: Before Saturday's contest against the Orioles, manager John Farrell said the center-field position would be dependent on Grady Sizemore's health, leaving the door open for innings between him, Shane Victorino and possibly Jackie Bradley Jr.
"The competition is there," Farrell said. "But we haven't arrived at a conclusion with Grady yet. We're hopeful that Monday and Tuesday he's got a chance to go back-to-back days. We still have to get answers to some questions that aren't there yet."
Farrell said Sizemore, who went 2-for-3 on Friday, played without hesitation and was encouraged by the way he ran down the line, clocking in at 4.2 seconds to beat out an infield single.
Oh Henry: Henry Owens, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization and as the No. 2 left-hander in baseball, began the game unscathed in the first inning, allowing just a single to Chris Davis. The next two innings resulted in runs, though, as the 21-year-old southpaw surrendered one in the second on an RBI single by Matt Wieters and two more in the third before being relieved midway through the frame.
After giving up a lead-off double to Nelson Cruz in the second and then a one-out, run-scoring single to Wieters, Owens got Alex González to pop out to the catcher and struck out Jonathan Schoop. In the third, the Orioles began the inning with two straight hits -- a double by Nick Markakis and an RBI double by J.J. Hardy -- and two consecutive walks by Chris Davis and Adam Jones to load the bases.
Owens then forced Cruz into a high chopper to Middlebrooks, who threw home for an out. Farrell then took Owens out of the game.
"Even when things started to speed up for him, I thought he showed good mound presence," Farrell said. "I thought today was a good test for him. I thought he learned some things in the second inning, how to use his changeup effectively when he gets into trouble and force guys to swing the bat against his fastball."
Owens, who has recorded 299 strikeouts in 236 ⅔ innings over two minor league seasons with Class A Greenville, High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, managed just one punchout against the Orioles.
"He's going up against a very good right-handed hitting lineup and I think he showed some poise," Farrell said.
Slugging away: Bryce Brentz had another solid showing at the plate, collecting a single and a two-run homer in three at-bats. Brentz, who hit 17 home runs in just 326 at-bats with Pawtucket last season, has three this spring.
"I think equally impressive as the home run was the two-strike base hit the other way," Farrell said. "He's got power to all fields, but to me, when he gets into disadvantage counts, to still have productive at-bats, that's really a step forward."
JBJ report: Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. played the first six innings in center field before moving over to right field in the seventh. Bradley went hitless in four at-bats, flying out to left, grounding out to first on a hard-hit ball and striking out twice, once looking.
X file: Rookie Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip. He is scheduled to start Saturday night against the Orioles.
The dot, dot, dots: Jake Peavy will throw three innings in the bullpen today in Fort Myers. He is lined up to start Thursday against Minnesota. Peavy is recovering from a deep cut on his left index finger. ... Felix Doubront will pitch in a minor league intrasquad game on the team's off day on Wednesday to stay on turn. ... Brock Holt, who is competing for a backup infield role, went 1-for-3 with a double, a strikeout and a line-out to first. ... Tommy Layne had another scoreless outing this spring, giving up just one hit and two walks with one strikeout over 1 ⅓ innings.
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This was a bold statement from a young player who is viewed mostly through the prism of his potential as a hitter, a right-handed slugger capable of hitting 25 to 30 home runs a season.
"I want to win a Gold Glove," Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said Friday. "I want to help us win any way that I can."
The left side of the Red Sox infield is in transition. Gifted shortstop Jose Iglesias was traded away. Veteran Stephen Drew turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer to return and remains in free-agent limbo. Top prospect Xander Bogaerts has been deemed the heir apparent at short. Middlebrooks, who struggled through injuries, a prolonged slump and a demotion last season, has been given the chance to reclaim his stake on third base.
Middlebrooks worked all winter with team strength and conditioning consultant Mike Boyle and came to camp stronger than he has ever been. He also believes he has added quickness, which he hopes will translate into making him a better base-runner and defender.
The result: The Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-1, before a crowd of 9,966 in JetBlue Park, breaking a 1-all tie in the seventh with three runs, two coming on a single by Ryan Lavarnway, pinch-hitting for David Ortiz. Now that’s a scenario you won't see in the regular season. The Sox, who had gone 12 2/3 innings without scoring before Ortiz doubled and Jonny Gomes singled him home in the sixth, are now 2-5. The Braves, whose only run came on Jason Heyward’s home run off Junichi Tazawa in the sixth, are 2-7.
The highlight: A day after holding the Marlins scoreless on two hits through seven innings Thursday, six Sox pitchers limited the Braves to four hits, three singles and Heyward’s home run. Francisco Cordero, who sat out a year in 2013 after flaming out as John Farrell’s closer in 2012, earned the save with a two-K, scoreless ninth. Cordero’s last big-league save came on April 23, 2012.
“Night and day from last year," Ross said. “Repeating pitches, repeating location. Fastball location, he’s doing a better job for me, knowing how to move the ball around in the zone."
Doubront, who made no friends last spring when he showed up out of shape, spent seven weeks working with the IMG training group in Sarasota. Last year, Farrell said Lackey was able to repeat his delivery more because he had better body control. He’s returned to that theme when discussing Doubront.
“It’s very encouraging to see how he’s repeated his delivery," Farrell said. “That’s something he has worked on since the day he signed a pro contract and that’s become more consistent. I think what he’s realizing is the benefits of the work he put in this winter. He came in good shape and it’s allowed him to repeat his delivery more consistently, which has resulted in more consistent strike-throwing."
Sizemore, the sequel: Could it be that Grady Sizemore wasn’t playing baseball the last two years because he took some time to tour the globe, and not because he was hurt? “I wish," he said. But playing his first game for the Sox since Monday here, Sizemore continues to defy the trend that laid waste to his career since the end of 2009, when he broke down repeatedly, requiring seven surgeries. Sizemore beat out an infield hit and lined a single to center. He ran hard on the infield hit and zoomed from first to third on Mike Napoli’s inning-ending fly to right field. He advanced on a wild pitch, sliding into second base. And he hasn’t once limped, stumbled or even looked like he needed to catch his breath.
Scouts have commented that his timing at the plate is better than you’d expect from a guy who has been away as long as Sizemore has.
“It’s not bad, but still feel like there are a lot of improvements to be made," he said. “The rhythm’s not there, the timing is still off. But I’m not trying to force it, I’m not pressing. It’s one of those things with more at-bats, I’ll start to feel more comfortable, get good swings, and seeing the ball well."
Sizemore said he expects to play twice more before the team’s scheduled March 12 off-day, and has discussed with Farrell playing in back-to-back games after that date. Farrell, who said Sizemore will play next on Monday here against the Rays and then again Wednesday, acknowledged they’ve discussed it.
“He did a number of things today we haven’t seen yet," Farrell said. “He advances 90 feet on a ball in the dirt. First time he’s been forced to slide. With each day out, and each game played, there are other situations emerging that he’s responding to."
Through the exam in the offseason when we were recruiting him, we were pretty confident that his return from the injuries would allow him to get on the field. The only question we have right now is from the durability one."
Ninja gone wild: With two outs and nobody on in the fifth, Sox closer Koji Uehara fell behind Gerald Laird, 3 and 0, then walked him on five pitches. In the last four seasons, Uehera has issued just 23 unintentional walks in 219 1/3 innings. Last season, he issued just seven unintentional walks in 74 1/3 innings.
“I knew what he was doing, you got to give some leeway," Ross said. “I didn’t want him to give up a run, but he got two quick outs, it was like, ‘I want to work on my third pitch. A little slider-cutter thing. It’s pretty good. Not bad. I’m not going to call it bases loaded. It’s something he’s working on and trying to get some easy outs on it. He was definitely locating his fastball, his splitty is there both sides."
Farrell called the “little slider-cutter thing” Uehara’s “spring training” pitch, saying he worked on it last spring, too. “He’ll use it on rare occasions during the season," Farrell said. “But he can manipulate a baseball. We’ve seen him throw curveballs and cutters, and the other two primary pitches he has (fastball, split). He goes out to get his work in."
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr., after playing back-to-back games in Jupiter, was given the day off.
X files: Xander Bogaerts went hitless in three at-bats, striking out once. The shortstop made a nice play in the hole to force B.J. Upton at second.
Dot, dot, dots: Herrera entered the game as a pinch-runner after Dustin Pedroia blooped a hit in the sixth, beat a throw into second on David Ortiz’s grounder to first, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Jonny Gomes’ single. He remained in the game and doubled in Boston’s three-run seventh... Reliever Edward Mujica was credited with the win after throwing a 1-2-3 seventh... Burke Badenhop worked a scoreless eighth, allowing one hit... David Ortiz doubled into the triangle... Sox are split-squadding it Saturday, with lefty prospect Henry Owens drawing the start against the Orioles in Sarasota at 1:05, and Brandon Workman drawing the start against the Orioles in JetBlue on Saturday night....Ortiz's double in the fourth, which carried to the center-field triangle, was his first hit of the spring.
Felix Doubront - $586,000
Daniel Nava - $556,500
Will Middlebrooks - $540,500
Brandon Workman - $518,000
Xander Bogaerts - $517,000
Ryan Lavarnway - $510,000
Rubby De La Rosa - $504,000
Alex Wilson - $503,500
Drake Britton - $503,000
Brock Holt - $503,000
Jackie Bradley - $502,000
Allen Webster - $502,000
Steven Wright - $502,000
Dan Butler - $500,000
Alex Hassan - $500,000
Christian Vazquez - $500,000
Bryce Brentz - $500,000
Garin Cecchini - $500,000
Anthony Ranaudo - $500,000
These deals mean all players on the Red Sox major league roster are under contract for 2014.
Sox manager John Farrell told reporters he’d heard that the Marlins might have filed a complaint with the commissioner’s office, but a Marlins spokesman said Friday morning that was not the case.
Farrell didn’t deviate from the explanation he gave Thursday morning, saying that the team’s regular infielders had stayed behind for intensive work with infield instructor Brian Butterfield.
“You’re dealing with travel, you’re dealing with availability of players, you’re dealing with what we’re trying to get done," Farrell had said.
Technically, the Red Sox did not abide by the directive teams receive regarding the composition of lineups for road games, which states that clubs should bring “a minimum of four players who are regulars on the previous year’s major league team or who were platooned on the previous year’s major league team on a regular basis, or who have a reasonable chance to be regulars on the major league club’s squad during the upcoming season. Each of those regulars, excluding pitchers, must play a minimum of three complete innings."
Still, there are some extenuating circumstances that should be taken into account. One, the Sox played back-to-back games in Jupiter. On Wednesday, the Sox sent Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks for the game against the Cardinals, along with a semi-regular, Mike Carp. All but Bradley Jr. returned to camp, which is typical for teams when they have back-to-back games in the same vicinity.
Thursday, Farrell said, had been earmarked for the infield work.
“It was a day that we go through every spring training," Farrell said. “Our starting infield, Butter begins to re-establish all the terminology, all the spots on the infield when we go into shifts. To have the projected starting infield together was critical. That’s what yesterday was about, in addition to some individual work that took place here."
Farrell also pointed out that both veteran catchers, David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski, were unavailable because of foot injuries, and that starting right fielder Shane Victorino has yet to play in a game.
“You can’t speak to what goes on inside another team’s camp," Farrell said. “There are reasons why they bring the team that they do, just as we had our very concrete reasons why we had the team we had in Jupiter. I can’t speak for other teams but we had specific work, in addition to having two catchers who needed time off and a right fielder unavailable. We’ve got work and injuries we’re contending with, and we just used players who were available."
The Marlins’ sensitivity to Boston’s no-name lineup -- Bradley was the only regular -- likely stems from the fact that they charged “super premium” prices for the Boston game, tacking on from $10 to $12 per ticket. It was the only game this spring that they did so. Despite playing in a two-year-old stadium, the Marlins ranked 29th in attendance out of 30 big-league teams, drawing 1.586 million fans. And a club source said ticket sales are lagging badly again this season.
The Marlins, with a lineup sporting seven of their regulars, managed just two hits and were held to a scoreless tie by the Sox irregulars.
“I thought we played a pretty darn good game," Farrell said. “As a matter of fact, it was the cleanest game we’ve played all spring."
A few other tidbits from Farrell’s morning session: Ross, as expected, was back in the lineup Friday, with Pierzynski expected to catch Saturday. Jake Peavy, with his finger wound still healing, is expected to throw an extended bullpen Friday, then make his first spring start March 12. That would give him four more starts before he would be needed to make his first regular-season start, which Farrell believes should be enough time for him to be ready, but they will monitor his progress. The Sox medical staff will probably fashion some kind of protective device for Peavy to wear underneath his glove. ... Matt Barnes, who had reported some stiffness in his shoulder, is back on a throwing program.
Here are the lineups:
1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Jonny Gomes, LF
6. Daniel Nava, RF
7. Xander Bogaerts, SS
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. David Ross, C
Felix Doubront, LHP
1. Jason Heyward, DH
2. B.J. Upton, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Ryan Doumit, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 3B
6. Ernesto Mejia, 1B
7. Gerald Laird, C
8. Tommy La Stella, 2B
9. Ramiro Pena, SS
Alex Wood, LHP
“I hope they go 0-162,” Saltalamacchia told reporters during spring training yesterday. “Now they're all sleazeballs."
Saltalamacchia, of course, was joking and had a smile on his face as he said it.
The comments were taken from the ESPN The Magazine story on Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who made the statements in regards to the Texas Rangers and general manager Jon Daniels in a story published earlier this week.
Kinsler said he hoped the Rangers went “0-162” and called Daniels a “sleazeball,” blaming him for pushing Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan out of the organization. Kinsler has said the comments were “taken a little bit out of context,” but that he had no plans to reach out to Daniels.
Saltalamacchia, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins this offseason, is a former teammate of Kinsler’s as the catcher came over to the Rangers as part of the Mark Teixeira deal at the trade deadline in 2007.
Saltalamacchia was part of the world champion Red Sox last year and is close to many of his former teammates there.
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 to 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, making it easier to rack up lots of WAR. 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 owner Jack Dunn finally sold him to the Athletics for $100,600 -- the Athletics outbidding the Cubs and Dodgers to make Grove the most expensive sale ever at the time. 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 on the level of Johnson or Clemens.
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 early in his career. 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 slowly through the minors. For one brief period, however, it all came together for him. After 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, where fields are 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. 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
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.
"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."