FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where the green-clad Sox beat the Orioles, 7-4, in a split squad here while tying another batch of O's, 3-3, in 10 innings in Sarasota:
The Red Sox released pitcher Carlos Silva, who was coming off shoulder surgery and was shut down with shoulder inflammation this spring, taking him out of the competition for a starting spot here. GM Ben Cherington said the team elected to give Silva a chance to catch on with another club.
Cody Ross had a double and a home run, his first since hitting two in the college games, and Lars Anderson had a double and two-run single for the Sox in the Fort. Ross is hitting .450 this spring, Anderson .429.
Aaron Cook made his second spring appearance, giving up a hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Orioles in Sarasota.
"It's what I was looking for," Cook said upon his return to the Fort. "Groundball outs, and short innings. Four fly ball outs, one strikeout, rest were ground balls."
Cook has been hurt each of the last two seasons -- a broken leg in 2010, and a broken finger and an inflamed shoulder last season -- and was placed on a slower progression than the other pitchers in camp this spring. That's not a concern, he said.
"I don't worry about it," he said. "I threw three and a third today, they keep putting up innings and I'll just go out there and keep pitching. There are no issues."
Cook has a May 1 opt-out of his contract. "I want to start,'' said Cook, who pitched 10 seasons for the Rockies, winning a career-high 16 games in 2008, before signing a minor-league deal with the Red Sox. But if asked to go to the pen would he do so? "Definitely,'' he said.
Josh Beckett had an easy time of it Saturday, pitching against an Orioles team that had just one regular position player, Chris Davis (possibly two if you project Wilson Betemit as the team's DH). Beckett worked five innings in which he threw 59 pitches, an impressive 40 for strikes. Beckett gave up a run on two hits and a walk, striking out two. The game was completed in a snappy 2 hours 37 minutes, which should give you a sense of the pace at which he worked, and the results he achieved.
The most interesting aspect of Beckett's outing was that it was his first extended work with catcher Kelly Shoppach. Jason Varitek caught nearly all of Beckett's starts in Boston before he retired, so the rapport Beckett is developing with Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is being monitored here.
"I think Josh will shake pitches off no matter how much sync he's in [with his catcher],'' Valentine said. "You saw that with Tek on video, sometimes two or three pitches. He's going to throw what he wants to throw -- him, personally.
"I like to see the cadence and the timing. I think that has a lot to do with [being in] sync. You might shake off pitches, but still be with the guy, going somewhere else. Josh has -- many pitchers have -- pitches that work off one another, and Josh knows what he likes to throw when something is working or not working to get back into the count and get guys out.
"We've been looking at that a bit. It's tough in these short outings. It was easier today. Pretty good today, yeah."
Beckett and Valentine both addressed questions about controling the running game, which Valentine has targeted as an area needing improvement. Valentine said that when Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver, to name two all-timers, pitched, no one cared if the runner stole.
"But that was in a different era," he said. "If you can keep a runner on first and get a double play, a lot of times that means a whole other inning that that starter can pitch. If he gets to second and you get the next three guys out, and you use your arsenal, a lot of times that's your last inning. That's a big difference in today's game."
Last season, base-runners were successful stealing 31 of the 35 times they ran on Beckett, according to baseball-reference.com. The numbers were even worse for Beckett the previous year (stealers were 18-for-19), but as recently as 2008, base-runners tried to steal just a dozen times against Beckett, and five runners were caught.
During Terry Francona's eight-year term as manager, especially since John Farrell came on board as pitching coach, he maintained that he'd rather a runner steal a base than have his pitcher throw a less effective pitch because he was slide-stepping as a means to hold the runner on. Valentine said he lost his taste for the slide-step in 1986 after Jose Guzman of the Rangers used it and gave up a home run.
"Slide-step, I don't believe in the slide-step," Valentine said. "Controlling the runner, it's a program that you have built in to vary your cadence. To not say, 'I don't give a [expletive] if you steal a base. That's all it is. That doesn't mean you have to be 1.1 (seconds) to the plate. It doesn't mean you have to have a great pickoff. It just means you have a program. I've seen Josh do it. And Jon (Lester) is getting there. Clay (Buchholz) has a quick move coming up. Sometimes he uses the package to change his cadence. Slide-step stinks."
Valentine praised Beckett's work in Saturday's game.
"Today I thought it was amazing," he said. "He had a base-stealer out there [Xavier Avery]. He used his entire package. He threw over three different times with three different moves and they quick-pitched the hitter, with his regular step. That's having a plan, working your plan."
Ryan Lavarnway caught Cook and had three hits in Sarasota, raising his spring average to .471. Nate Spears accounted for all the Sox scoring in Sarasota with a three-run home run. Jason Repko, playing left field, threw out Nick Johnson at the plate. The Orioles scored two runs in the sixth on a throwing error by pitcher Clayton Mortensen, followed by a passed ball charged to Luis Exposito. Adrian Gonzalez, of all people, was picked off first by Bruce Chen.
Carl Crawford hit off a tee Saturday morning, aggressively the last five swings, according to Valentine, and said he felt fine.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (bursitis in his hip) had five at-bats in minor league games and will catch Sunday in Port Charlotte. Shortstop Jose Iglesias (groin) had four at-bats, ran hard down the line on his last one, and reported no issues, the manager said, but Valentine said he'll probably keep him out of action another day. "Crazy to let him play a game before he's 100 percent," Valentine said.
The manager said he was bewildered by Saltalamacchia's condition. "What is it, you know?" he said. "Bursitis, right, is that what they call it? I haven't seen bursitis in a long time. I think my mom had it the last time I heard about it."
For the record, here is the definition, as offered on the website of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
"Bursitis is caused by inflammation of a bursa, a small jelly-like sac that usually contains a small amount of fluid. Bursae are located throughout the body, most importantly around the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, and heel. They act as cushions between bones and the overlying soft tissues, and help reduce friction between the gliding muscles and the bone."
And there's this:
"The main symptom of hip bursitis is pain at the point of the hip. The pain usually extends to the outside of the thigh area. In the early stages, the pain is usually described as sharp and intense. Later, it may feel more achy and spread out. Typically, the pain is worse at night, when lying on the affected hip, and when getting up from a chair after being seated for a while. It also may get worse with prolonged walking, stair climbing, or squatting."
Ryan Kalish (neck, shoulder), who is playing catch from 60 feet, plans to start hitting off a tee on Monday.
I thought it might have been urban legend, but Sox CEO Larry Lucchino confirms it is true. Back when the team was at City of Palms, an opossum fell through a ceiling panel and onto Lucchino's desk. And you wonder why the Sox demanded a new ballpark?
Mike Aviles was an Indians fan. In an interview I conducted during the annual BoSox Club luncheon here, Aviles said that even though he spent most of his time with his grandparents in the Bronx, just eight minutes from Yankee Stadium, he grew up an Indians fan. "I liked Omar Vizquel and Manny Ramirez," he said.
A scout's rave regarding Andrew Miller's outing Friday night: "He was throwing 96, 97, even slide-stepping, with a great hook. You never know what he'll have next time out, but he could make a real impact out of the bullpen."
Valentine said John Lackey's rehab has not been on his radar screen this spring. He said a decision has yet to be made on whether Lackey will remain here while he recovers from Tommy John surgery, or comes to Boston.
Valentine introduced a different wrinkle in Friday night's game. When he overshifted the infield against a left-handed hitter, he moved the third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, between the first baseman and second baseman and had his shortstop and second baseman stay home. His logic is beyond dispute: It keeps his DP combination intact and leaves his shortstop, who has the most range, to chase down any popups hit to the left side.
Why don't more teams do it that way?
"You kind of saw the body language of Youk yesterday," Valentine said, referring to third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "That's why you don't it. You gotta run all the way over there and all the way back. Some managers would say, 'Geez, I guess he doesn't like to do that.'"
Manny Machado, who played short for the Orioles in the Fort Saturday, was 11 years old when he watched Josh Beckett help the Marlins win the World Series in 2003. Machado went to high school kid in Hialeah (Fl.), and was the third player taken overall in 2010 draft.
Beckett was asked if it was strange to hear that.
"That means I'm getting old,'' he said. "I guess he wasn't a Josh Beckett fan because he was sure taking some hard swings.
"I saw Gio Gonzalez at the All-Star Game last year and he said the same thing. I'm thinking, 'Oh my goodness.' Getting old."
"He didn't have any timing,'' Valentine said. "He said someone as fast as he is, why would he try a delayed steal. Only because fast runners are successful when they do it properly. I told him I finally found something he doesn't do well on a baseball field."
Shoppach did a hammer throw with his bat on a third strike, winning the bronze medal as the bat landed in the seats over the third-base dugout. Shoppach, evidently, has been known to do this before. The Sox catcher, as he tweeted Saturday, even has a name for it.
"All the Boston fans got to see a 'Shop-a-copter' today,'' tweeted Shoppach (@ShopHouse10). "But the good news is...another lucky fan got a free bat."
Check out this story by Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal on how 20/20 vision may not be enough for a big league baseball player.
On deck: Clay Buchholz is scheduled to pitch Sunday in Port Charlotte against the Rays. The only regulars scheduled to make the trip are Saltalamacchia, Aviles and Cody Ross. Nick Punto, Josh Kroeger, Lars Anderson, Jason Repko, Nate Spears and Alex Hassan are all scheduled to go.