Takeaways: Koji rocks, A.J. rolls [ankle]

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
6:24
PM ET
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Takeaways from McKechnie Field, where Koji Time has evidently stood still since the World Series, Ryan Lavarnway made his initial start at first base, A.J. Pierzynski reintroduced himself to his bat, then rolled his ankle again, and rookie outfielder Bryce Brentz is making an early grab for attention with his slugging.

The result: The Sox lost, 7-6, to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had six extra-base hits, including home runs by former BC star Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin off Brandon Workman, and scored the tie-breaking run in the eighth off Sox left-handed prospect Henry Owens on a double by first baseman Chris McGuiness. The Sox lost despite the second home run of the spring for Brentz, who hit 17 in just 326 at-bats for Pawtucket last season.

The Sox are now 1-3 in Grapefruit League play, with a game at home Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tanaka who?: There was a larger-than-usual contingent of Japanese reporters here Tuesday, the regulars having been joined by other reporters who had been elsewhere. Koji Uehara, whose first spring outing went as well as most of his appearances last season, wasn’t fooled.

“All this media probably went to Tanaka and came to me afterward,’’ he said.

And how closely is he paying attention to Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ import?

“I’m not following him at all,’’ he said.

[+] EnlargeJunichi Tazawa
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarIt was no sweat for Junichi Tazawa in his first outing of the spring -- a one-hit, scoreless inning.
Taste of Taz: Junichi Tazawa worked a scoreless fifth, against the heart of the Pirates’ order and allowed just a single by Andrew McCutchen, the NL MVP. He retired Martin and Alvarez on fly balls and Neil Walker on a grounder to second.

Farrell had pledged that just as with Uehara, he planned to limit Tazawa in camp, holding him to around seven appearances.

“I’m prepared to pitch whenever they want me to,’’ Tazawa said. “I appreciate they want to take it easy on me, but they don’t have to pamper me,’’ he added with a smile.

“Usually I pitch against the college guys and I get whacked around. This year I was pitching against much better competition and I did better. I faced some really good hitters today and I’m pleased.’’

Farrell, on Tazawa’s outing: “One thing Taz showed today was much better depth to his splitter, the most depth we’ve seen out of the split. He came into camp and showed good arm strength, and overall, pretty fresh.’’

Lavarnway, at first: Lavarnway, who has spent the time he isn’t catching being tutored at first base by infield coach Brian Butterfield, made his first start at the new position. He made a nice play in the second inning, when he fielded a ground ball hit down the line and flipped to Workman for the out.

The Sox have lots of catching options behind veterans Pierzynski and David Ross in Daniel Butler, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, so Lavarnway’s best path to the big leagues may come from mastering an additional position.

“Well, I went from zero to where I am now, so that was pretty good, I guess,’’ he said. “The feedback has all been good. I still am not at a point where I know what’s good and what’s bad, but the feedback has been good for me.”

That has included a conversation with another converted catcher, Mike Napoli, about the position.

“Today was the first time that we talked about it and he had some good pointers for me,”
Lavarnway said. “He had a lot of good feedback. One of the main things we talked about was his set-up pre-pitch, and how it took him a while to find something that he liked. It’s different for everybody and I have to find what I like.”

A.J. and the ankle: Pierzynski rolled his left ankle, the same one he rolled in the first days of camp, after rounding first base on his seventh-inning single. He was taken out for a pinch runner, Jayson Hernandez, but said he could play Tuesday if needed. Farrell said the plan was to give him the next three days off anyway. Pierzynski also doubled in three at-bats.

“I was joking with Colby [hitting coach Greg Colbrunn] that today this was the first day all spring I felt like I knew how to hit,’’ he said. “Nice that it carried over to the game. A good day of work, a day to build off.’’

Workman’s labors: Imagine how many times Workman has had to put up with reading a headline playing off his name: Good Workman, Workman-like, Hard Day’s Workman, All in a Good Day’s Workman, Master Workman. The possibilities are endless. He’s accustomed to it, and detects a certain lack of creativity.

“Don’t you think you guys should work a little harder?’’ he joked to a reporter who brought up the subject.

The man has a point. He also was spot on in evaluating his effort Monday, in which he was charged with 5 runs on 5 hits in 2 1/3 innings, with no walks and four whiffs. He threw a lot of strikes (33 out of 45), but made a couple of mistakes that you can’t make in a shooting gallery like McKechnie Field, where the ball carries even on a day the wind wasn’t as strong as it usually is.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Workman
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBrandon Workman threw a lot of strikes, but made a couple of costly mistakes.
“Alvarez, I was trying to get in on him and it ran back over the plate and he put a good swing on it,’’ Workman said. “To Martin, I tried to throw a cutter away and didn’t get it down enough.’’

Pierzynski said he was impressed that Workman was unafraid to attack the zone, even when he was being hit. Workman is fighting for a spot in a crowded bullpen and may wind up back in the rotation in Pawtucket. He was asked if that made spring-training results mean more than they should, given that results should be secondary to preparing for the season.

“I’m a competitive person,’’ he said, “and if it’s not about results they wouldn’t have a scoreboard. There is a bigger picture in spring training getting ready for the season, but I feel anyone who has a competitive nature wants to have success. It’s nice when you’re working on things to get results too.’’

JBJ report: Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. played the first six innings in center field before giving way to nonroster invitee Mike McCoy. Bradley went hitless in three at-bats, grounding out twice and popping out.

X file: Rookie Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip. He worked out back in the Fort.

The dot, dot, dots: Brock Holt, a former Pirates farmhand, stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Herrera. The two are competing for the backup infield role. ... Burke Badenhop, acquired from Milwaukee, made his spring debut and pitched a scoreless sixth, giving up a couple of hits. ... Owens worked a 1-2-3 seventh, but after the Sox rallied for three in the eighth to tie the score (Mike Carp hitting a two-run home run), a hit batsman, stolen base and McGuiness’s double pinned the loss on Owens. “He got behind in a fastball count,’’ Farrell said. “Against lefties, right now he’s staying in one spot. He’s a young guy getting his feet wet in this kind of environment. I thought his overall poise and mound presence were very solid.’’

Out of options: Here are the Sox players who are out of options, meaning they can’t be sent down to the minors without clearing waivers first: Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Edward Mujica, A.J. Pierzynski, David Ross, Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes. The only player for whom this is potentially significant is Carp, although he figures to make the team out of camp. Carp could draw some trade attention for a team looking for a bat at first base or the outfield.

Cutting edge: Jake Peavy has some company in ballplayers who have suffered self-inflicted knife wounds in spring training. When Peavy was in the Padres system, pitcher Adam Eaton stabbed himself in the stomach while trying to open the plastic wrapping on a DVD with a pocket knife. In 2010, Jays pitcher Brett Cecil slashed his thumb while preparing chicken salad. And last month here, Travis Snider of the Pirates sliced a finger while cutting up sweet potatoes.

Coming attractions: Clay Buchholz is scheduled to make his first start Tuesday against the Rays in Jet Blue Park, assuming he stays away from sharp objects. Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Andrew Miller, Jose Mijares and Francisco Cordero are also listed to pitch. Chris Archer and Jake McGee are listed among the pitchers scheduled to go for the Rays.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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