Takeaways: Britton, Sizemore ace their tests

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
8:00
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where Grady Sizemore lost his footing on the warning track of Hammond Stadium and lived to tell about it, A.J. Pierzynski went back to his baseball roots and was booed, Allen Webster had a bumpy first ride, and Drake Britton made a strong case for the Mohawk to be this year's Red Sox fashion statement, though his disciples have yet to surface.

The details:

The result: The Sox fell to the Twins for the second straight game, this time by a 6-2 score in Hammond Stadium before a crowd of 8,547, a record for this part of town. The Twins have added hundreds of seats in the first phase of a $48.5 million renovation, the money ponied up by Lee County, the same folks who are on the hook for the construction of the $78 million JetBlue Park. Can't be having the Twins feeling left out, now can we?

[+] EnlargeDaniel Nava
AP Photo/Steven SenneDaniel Nava blasted a home run in his first right-handed at-bat of the spring.
The long balls: Daniel Nava, in his first swing from the right side against a pitcher this spring, hit a home run to left field off Twins lefty Scott Diamond. Nava had not participated in batting practice sessions against Sox pitchers because of a pinched nerve in his neck.

Chris Parmalee hit a three-run home run for the Twins off nonroster pitcher Jose Mijares, a Venezuelan who at 5-foot-11 and a listed 265 pounds is reminiscent of a left-handed version of El Guapo, Rich Garces, who pitched for both the Twins and Sox. Mijares was lit up for four hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The day's major development: That came from the Twins' side, where the club announced that one of the game's top prospects, 20-year-old third baseman Miguel Sano, will require season-ending Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow.

Sox highlight No 1: That would be the two innings turned in by left-hander Drake Britton, who struck out four of the first five batters he faced before giving up a two-out double to Eduardo Escobar.

"He was great," said Pierzynski, who was catching him for the first time. "Obviously, the results speak for themselves. He hung the one slider to Escobar for the double. Other than that, he struck out the side in the first inning. It was good for him to give up the hit and have to bounce back in a situation where he couldn't give up a run. But he threw the ball great. He threw the ball inside, outside, threw sliders, some changeups, pretty much had it all going."

Manager John Farrell was no less impressed. "He was crisp, he was powerful," he said. "I think one of the more impressive things was his ability to throw the ball in to right-handers. He had an assortment of secondary pitches, the breaking ball and changeup, he also threw for strikes. Just a very good and clean two innings of work today."

Britton said he's been working hard on refining his mechanics -- "staying back over the rubber, not rushing out front, just letting my arm work to get my foot down and to get extension out front."

He's in a much better place than he was at this time last year, when he blew a chance to attend what would have been his first big league camp with an arrest on charges of driving at excessive speeds (111 mph in a 45 mph zone) and driving under the influence. The DUI eventually was reduced to a misdemeanor reckless-driving charge. Last November, Britton pleaded no contest to one reckless-driving charge and also was found guilty of reckless driving that caused damage to property, according to Lee County Criminal Court records. The court placed restrictions on his driver's license, fined him $1,100, required him to perform community service and required him to attend DUI school.

But after the Sox had sent Britton back down to minor league camp and had him enroll in an employee assistance program, the pitcher expressed public remorse for his actions. He made great strides in putting his career back on track, culminating with his promotion to the big leagues last July. He made 18 appearances, all in relief, and did not allow a run in his first seven appearances.

He comes into camp competing for a spot as the third left-hander in the bullpen, though newly acquired Chris Capuano could prove a formidable competitor. Saturday's outing was a great opening statement.

[+] EnlargeGrady Sizemore
AP Photo/Steven SenneGrady Sizemore wasn't happy after striking out in the third inning, but he was pleased to "feel good, and feel strong" after the game.
Sox highlight No. 2: Sizemore, making his first Grapefruit League start, led off and played center field, collecting a ground ball single in three at-bats. He slipped on the track in left-center while chasing Brian Dozier's double and bounced off the fence but quickly recovered and threw the ball into the infield.

"Recognizing that he had to pivot and torque on the leg, but he came out of it fine," Farrell said. "No issues. It was good to see him get three at-bats and continue to build."

Sizemore will not play again until Tuesday, Farrell said, and will receive another three or four days off after that as the Sox proceed cautiously in increasing his workload.

"I felt good today," Sizemore said. "Everything felt good. As much as I could hope for as far as my body and knees and everything. I'm happy just to get through these games and feel good and feel strong, and not come in the next day with any lingering issues. So far, it's been good."

Pierzynski, who played regularly against Sizemore in the AL Central when he was with the White Sox and Sizemore was with the Indians, is encouraged by the early returns.

"From what I've seen, he's fine," he said. "He's always been one of my favorite guys to be around, he always has a smile on his face, I always loved to watch him play because he's an amazing player. He seems fine physically. Everything I've seen -- the way he swings the bat and moves around, he looks good to me, like the old Grady Sizemore. If he's healthy, he's going to help."

Is he beyond the point of being a long shot to make the club?

"You'd have to ask someone smarter than me," Pierzynski said. "I don't know his medical records, [but] from what I've seen, he's doing everything. He looks like he's moving around well, looks like he's running well, he's swinging the bat. I mean, he looks like a normal Grady Sizemore. I don't know any different. I've asked him a couple of times and he says he feels great. I don't see any limp. He looks like a normal player."

The work in progress: Rookie right-hander Allen Webster made seven starts for the Sox last season. He gave up first-inning runs in four of them: an unearned run to the Royals in his first start, four to the Twins and four to the Tigers in his next two starts, and two against the Mariners in his next-to-last start. The Red Sox, sensing a pattern, had Webster simulate an inning in the pen before taking the mound for his first spring start Saturday. It didn't help, as Webster gave up three runs on four well-hit balls: two doubles, a single and a sacrifice fly. He also walked a man and hit a batter.

The second inning went much better. He got a lineout and struck out Aaron Hicks before giving up a two-out hit to Dozier, who had doubled and scored in the first. Webster was lifted at that point.

"I got a little anxious, left a few balls up and they made good contact," he said.

Pierzynski, who also was catching Webster for the first time, also said he missed up in the first inning but mixed in some two-seamers in the second with much better results.

"I hope Webby takes the second inning and works off that," he said. "Because that's the Webby that I've heard about, and that's the Webby people will be talking about for a long time."

[+] EnlargeBrian Dozierin, A.J. Pierzynski
AP Photo/Steven SenneA.J. Pierzynski found the fun in receiving a little razzing from fans.
The boos: Spring training makes for mellow crowds as a rule, but that didn't keep Pierzynski from hearing some boos when he stepped into the box for the first time Saturday, even though he began his career with the Twins. Pierzynski, of course, doffed his cap.

"I expect nothing less," he said of the reception. "Funny moments. It was good."

The project: Catcher Ryan Lavarnway saw his first action at first base, entering the game in the sixth inning. He handled the only ball hit to him, a slow roller. Farrell said he will likely play there again this week in Jupiter, where the Sox have games against the Cardinals and Marlins.

The bulletin-board material: Pierzynski was asked about Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M football star who has a marketing agreement with Fenway Sports Management and made an appearance in Sox camp this weekend. He said they'd met last year when Pierzynski was with the Rangers, so he just said hello and wished Manziel luck.

"Obviously, he's a great player," Pierzynski said. "Me being an SEC guy [Florida Gators fan], him being an SEC guy, I root for those guys. I know I liked watching him play. I liked the way he played because he was an amazing player.

"I think he'll do good if given the right opportunity. He should be a heckuva NFL player. Maybe he could come and take over for Tom Brady."

Whoa. Stop the presses?

"I'm joking. I'm joking. I'm joking," Pierzynski said amid the laughter. "Joking. Anyone forgets that I was joking, I'll sue for slander."

The Mohawk: Britton came into camp with a much more extreme version of the Mohawk he sported last season. Could that replace the beards?

"I don't know if people are into it," he said with a smile. "If everyone is, I'm down with it."

The submariner: Shunsuke Watanabe pitched a scoreless eighth, striking out one. He topped out at 76 miles an hour. Watanabe had Twins manager Ron Gardenhire reminiscing about Pete Delkus, a pitcher he had in Class A ball in Kenosha, Wis., in his first year of managing.

"[He] threw 79 miles an hour, tops," Gardenhire told reporters. "He was my closer in Kenosha. He did not give up an earned run until, like, Aug. 11. And he ended up only giving up [two] for the year. He was my closer with [33] saves.

"Seventy-nine miles an hour with a little lollipop slider -- just like that. And when [Watanabe] was throwing, I'm going, 'I've seen that before.' [Delkus] made it all the way to Triple-A before they started whacking him, and now he's a newscaster; he does the weather. He did the weather in Orlando, and I think he does it in Cincinnati now. He should do the weather, because he threw under the weather."

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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