Takeaways: Buch sharp as Sox top Jays, 3-1

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
6:42
PM ET
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Takeaways from Dunedin, where Mike Napoli was a late addition to the road trip to face the Toronto Blue Jays, Rich Hill was back on the mound, and Clay Buchholz posted zeroes once again in the only meeting of the spring between the division rivals.

[+] EnlargeClay Buchholz
Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsClay Buchholz looked sharp in four shutout innings but said his changeup still needs work.
The result: Buoyed by another impressive start by Buchholz, the Red Sox defeated the Blue Jays, 3-1, before a Florida Auto Exchange Stadium crowd of 5,519 -- the venue's fourth sellout of the spring. The Sox are now 7-8-1 after winning for the fifth time in the past six contests. The Red Sox broke through first with a run in the fifth inning after Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison held them at bay through his first four frames. Jonny Gomes singled to left off Hutchison to start the inning and made like The Flash in rounding the bases to score on Corey Brown's double to right center on the next pitch. The Sox scored the eventual winning run in the eighth with most of the reserves in to finish the day. One of the starters, though, Brock Holt, who is competing for a utility role, singled off Toronto reliever Kyle Drabek to start the inning. After Matty Johnson pinch ran for Holt, he eventually scored on a single by Deven Marrero, who then scored on a double by Sean Coyle.

Becoming Buchholz: It's still the middle of March, but Red Sox pitching is shaping into a mirror of the 2013 campaign. A day after Jake Peavy registered a solid appearance in his first spring outing, Buchholz breezed through his scheduled four innings of work with hardly a scratch.

"From the first time out until now, I've been able to get better as far as the innings progression," said Buchholz, who tossed one inning in his first appearance and three innings on March 9 against the Pirates. "I think I was efficient with the command of the two-seam and four-seam fastball today. I was able, a couple times when I fell behind, to come back and pound the strike zone."

After surrendering two consecutive singles to start the first inning, Buchholz kept the sheet clean the rest of his 55-pitch outing. One of the singles resulted in Jose Reyes being thrown out at second as he tried to stretch his line drive to right fielder Corey Brown into a double.

"From there on out, I felt pretty comfortable about moving the fastball around the strike zone," said Buchholz, who threw 35 strikes. "Going through some [trouble] and giving up some hard contact and being able to pitch around and get through it, it's a good step."

While Buchholz said he was pleased with where his velocity is at this point in the spring, the righty would like to refine his changeup.

"The changeup's the one pitch I haven't quite got a grasp on," said Buchholz, who threw four of them against the Blue Jays. "It's better that it's down than up, but I haven't really gotten a feel for it yet and that's a pitch I use a lot. I wanted to work on it a little bit more today, but when you spike it in the dirt, it's a pitch you don't want to keep throwing up there. As long as I'm throwing my fastballs over, I can work on [the changeup] and it's something I will improve on the side."

John Farrell said Buchholz is in line to make four more spring starts before the team breaks camp. The Red Sox skipper is pleased with Buchholz's overall foundation.

"He had three very good pitches working for him: his curveball, cutter and fastball," Farrell said. "I thought he had better stuff than he did five days ago. His velocity is starting to climb a bit, later action to his secondary pitches. Overall, he looks very comfortable with good stuff."

In terms of his righty's velocity, Farrell said he is pleased with how it's progressing.

"I'm not going to say I'm surprised, but it's very encouraging," Farrell said. "The last time out, it was 89, 91 mph. Today, he was 91, 92 mph pretty consistently. It shows the arm strength is building. In a matter of five days, there's been a sizable step forward to the action of all his pitches. More than anything, he's comfortable in his delivery. He's moving in the right direction."

Shane sits, then takes BP: Following Friday's contest, Farrell confirmed the fact that Shane Victorino did not play in a minor league game back in Fort Myers after "feeling discomfort" in his surgically repaired thumb. According to Red Sox media relations, though, the training staff said Victorino participated in batting practice in the cage back at the Fort.

Farrell anticipates Victorino being back in the lineup against the Philadelphia Phillies in Saturday night's game at JetBlue Park. This is the first issue with the right thumb for Victorino, who Farrell said exited the game against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday and mentioned some pain.

"He came out of the game the other day, and he felt a zinger in there," Farrell said. "It's hard for me to say what it is."

[+] EnlargeHill
AP Photo/Kathy WillensRich Hill made his spring game debut in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays.
Staying strong: Rich Hill teared up when discussing his first official spring appearance since the death of his infant son, Brooks. The 34-year-old left-hander said it was emotional being back out on the mound, but he is strengthened through the spirit of his son.

"It was tough, but it was good," said Hill, who tossed a perfect inning with one strikeout.

Hill, who threw 25 pitches in a simulated game a few days ago, was visibly emotional when discussing his outing Friday.

"At one point, you're out there -- I remember it was a 3-2 count -- and before it was like, you have to make a pitch here, you have to make a pitch," Hill said. "Then it just comes to you where you're just, you're playing baseball. This isn't something you were dealing with ... a few weeks ago. So, it was kind of a sense of ease to go out there and play the game the way we were meant to play it as kids. The emotions and the feelings out there today, that was really in that one sense. You see a black and white line there, where in years past, instead of just going out there and having fun, there would sometimes be overwhelming pressure to perform. That's where a lot of the emotions came through. The core level of the game."

Farrell was happy to see the southpaw back on the mound, more so from an emotional first step than anything. But the Red Sox manager knows both he and Hill have a job to do. "He's done everything he can to get back in the game," Farrell said. "We're going to reserve any type of judgment on him in terms of a game until he gets out there a bit more."

Hill, who allowed 27 earned runs in 38 ⅔ relief innings with the Cleveland Indians last year, is considered a solid option for a relief spot. Before the 2013 campaign, Hill posted a 1.14 ERA in 31 ⅔ innings in parts of three seasons with the Sox.

JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr., starting in center field, went 0-for-3 and is now batting .167 for the spring.

X file: Xander Bogaerts did not make the trip to Dunedin.

The dot, dot, dots: Jon Lester starts Saturday night against the Phillies at JetBlue Park. Other pitchers scheduled to make an appearance include Chris Capuano, Burke Badenhop, Andrew Miller and Edward Mujica. ... The Red Sox finished fifth in the latest rankings of fan involvement by TicketCity, a website that uses several different variables to identify fan involvement from data measured off the 2013 season before July 30. The algorithm is designed based on average total attendance, average home attendance, average home game ticket price, percentage of stadium capacity filled at home, Facebook likes and "talking about," and Twitter following. The San Francisco Giants ranked first.

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