Takeaways from the Fort: A familiar cast

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
5:51
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where Jon Lester showed off Opening Day-caliber stuff, John Farrell showed off an Opening Day-caliber lineup, David Ortiz showed his home run swagger (paging Brian McCann), and the Great Instant Replay Machine went unused.

The result: The Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-2, before a crowd of 9,876 at Jet Blue Park. The Sox are now 4-7. Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Corey Brown went deep for the Sox; Evan Longoria hit Chris Capuano’s first pitch over the Monster.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJon Lester got four called third strikes in three innings in his spring debut.
Lester’s launch: The Sox's strategy to ease Lester into his first start (he threw a three-inning simulated game last week) looked like a grand idea Monday, as Lester retired four Rays batters on called third strikes during the course of three scoreless innings in which he walked one and gave up a broken-bat single to Wil Myers.

“They should shut him down right now,’’ one scout said. “Fastball command, backing up his curveballs, cutting and painting -- he’s ready.’’

Afterward, Lester wasn’t prepared to go that far. What made this different from his typical first time out was that he mixed in some curveballs and back-door cutters into what is usually an all-fastball routine.

“It felt a little weird not being a part of any games, not being around the guys,’’ he said of going this deep into camp without a start. “I feel like I haven’t seen the guys in around two weeks. That’s been a little weird. But I feel good. Just building on that and trying to just look forward to the next one.’’

Lester’s velocity was around 90-91 m.p.h. That will increase as he draws closer to the end of camp. He reiterated how good it felt to see some familiar faces.

“With all the road trips, I feel like I haven’t seen any of these guys,’’ he said. “I reintroduced myself to the manager this morning. Good to have kind of the normal lineup, good to have [the Rays’] normal lineup. Gets you going a little more, as far as your adrenaline.’’

Farrell: “Any time Jon Lester walks to the mound is a good day.’’

The A team: Three weeks from the March 31 opener against the Orioles in Baltimore, Farrell put out a lineup that could be a reasonable facsimile of what he puts on his card when the games count. Much will depend on whether Grady Sizemore stays healthy; he’s due to play again Tuesday in his first back-to-back test of spring.

“We’re starting to get what shapes up to be our regular roster back on the field.’’ Farrell said. “This next turn through the rotation we’ll have all of our projected starters on the mound. Clay [Buchholz] did an outstanding job yesterday and I think the more we get that continuity from the starting staff, as we’ll achieve here in spring training, I think it sets the tone for everything else. The fact that we get [Victorino] on the field today for the first time, this is definitely a positive step.”

Simply Sizemore: The center fielder, playing the first of back-to-back games, has reached the stage where folks are allowing for the possibility that this is actually going to work, and that he has a legitimate chance of knocking Jackie Bradley Jr. out of the starting lineup. He led off, worked the count full, then lined a single to center off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. On a full count to Dustin Pedroia, he broke for second base as Pedroia grounded to third. He flied out in each of his last two at-bats before being replaced by Brown after five innings.

Farrell said the plan is for Sizemore to play three or four innings defensively Tuesday against the Marlins, with an at-bat or two, and see how he holds up.

“Looks pretty darn good to me,’’ Victorino said. “It’s obviously there. It’s a matter of him feeling good physically about his body and going out there and doing it. If we can get Grady healthy -- and he looks good out there -- we all know what he can be. I’m excited, and hopefully he can get through this, and I can be out there, playing alongside him.’’

Oldie but goodie: In the third, Ortiz hit the first pitch from Durham reliever Steve Geltz to Lehigh Acres, his first home run of the spring.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertDavid Ortiz is greeted at the dugout after hitting his first home run of the spring.
“Just another day,’’ Ortiz said. “I think I’m getting old for spring training,’’

Last season, of course, Ortiz did not play in spring training, missed the first two weeks of the regular season, then came out and hit .500, driving in 15 runs, in his first nine games. He also came out of the chute with at least one extra-base hit in nine straight games.

Spring training? Who needs it?

“That kind of mixed me up, let me tell you, by the way,’’ Ortiz said, referring to not playing last March. “Now my body’s not used to spring training, I’m fighting through it right now.

“It wasn’t like I wasn’t doing anything,’’ he said of last spring. “I think I had to work harder than any other year. They got me training hard every day down here. I didn’t play games, but it was worse than playing because by the time I went home, I was worn out. By the time I started playing, I was good to go.’’

But overall, he still takes a dim view of spring training.

“It’s fun ... the first couple of weeks,’’ he said. “After that, we get here early, we work out pretty much all day, so at some point it catches up with you, especially the old guys like me.’’

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr. did not play Monday. He is scheduled to make the trip to Sarasota for the split-squad game against the Orioles. A.J. Pierzynski, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Blake Swihart, Alex Hassan, Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are among the other players scheduled to make the trip. Allen Webster draws the start.

X files: Shortstop Xander Bogaerts was 0-for-1 with two walks in three plate appearances.

Dot, dot, dots: Brown, who homered off Santiago Garrido, is the former No. 1 draft pick of the Oakland Athletics who signed with the Sox as a nonroster player after appearing in parts of the last three seasons with the Nationals. Oakland actually purchased Brown from the Nats in December before he signed with the Sox as a minor-league free agent. ... With the game on TV, things were set up for replay challenges, but neither Farrell nor Rays manager Joe Maddon issued any. ... John Lackey is scheduled to make his first spring start Tuesday here against the Marlins. ... Napoli’s home run was his second of the spring.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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