Takeaways from Fort: Sizemore lets loose

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
7:20
PM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where Grady Sizemore is playing with increasing abandon and no one is holding his breath, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks hit back-to-back home runs in a display of power sure to be repeated when the games count, and Jon Lester said he was told some time ago that he is starting the regular-season opener but Farrell pledged to wait one more day to make it official.

The result: The Red Sox fell 5-4 to the Baltimore Orioles, who scored all of their runs and collected all 11 of their hits off rookie Allen Webster, who started the big-league exhibition while Lester worked a Class A minor-league game, allowing a run on three hits while pitching for Salem. Left-hander Chris Capuano, meanwhile, pitched five innings of no-hit ball for Class A Greenville, striking out 10.

The highlight: The back-to-back home runs struck by Bogaerts and Middlebrooks in the fourth inning off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, both of which cleared the faux Monster in left. The home run was a team-leading fourth of the spring for Middlebrooks, who also singled and is batting .341.

[+] EnlargeSizemore
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsGrady Sizemore was out trying to stretch a single, but his aggressive baserunning was another good sign of his readiness for the season.
The Sizemore sizzle: The center fielder singled in his first at-bat, then tried to hustle his way into an extra base, taking a head-first slide into second as he was cut down on a close play by right fielder Henry Urrutia. Next time up Sizemore walked and came around to score on a single by Mike Carp, sliding into home. He lined out to left in the fourth and reached on a force play in the seventh. Farrell said the Sox were looking for Sizemore to steal, but pitcher Ryan Webb didn’t give him a chance.

“We’ve talked about it as we progressed in camp,’’ Farrell said when asked if he was taking the wraps off Sizemore, who played in what is scheduled to be the second of three straight games. “Early on we didn’t want any added attempts, and then once he was coming out of games feeling good physically, we started to loosen the reins on that and today that aggressiveness has become a little more evident.

“He was more engaged in the game situation and nothing physically was keeping him from trying to advance 90 feet.’’

The X files: Bogaerts narrowly missed a home run in his first at-bat, a strong cross breeze knocking the ball down, but then hit one over the faux Monster in the fourth, his second home run of the spring. He is ending camp making consistently hard contact, his average now up to .234.

JBJ report: Like Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr. was scheduled for just two at-bats. He grounded out and struck out. His average is down to .167 which, it should be noted, places him at a near midpoint between Jonny Gomes (.159) and Mike Napoli (.188).

Opening Day “secret”: In fairness to the Red Sox manager, Farrell repeatedly has said the rotation was set up this spring the way he intends to deploy it once the season begins, but until he has a chance to visit with Lester on Thursday, the day after he went six innings in a Class A game and allowed a run on three hits, he will hold off on making it official.

This is no different from the way Farrell proceeded in 2013, though Lester admitted Wednesday that Farrell told him earlier in camp that he’d be facing the Orioles on March 31 in Baltimore. The message was delivered in a more conventional fashion -- the two sitting in the manager’s office -- than when Lester was sitting in a deer stand and received a text message from Terry Francona that he’d be pitching the opener in 2011, the first of what will now be four straight Opening Day assignments.

“When the manager sits down and tells you face to face, that’s a good feeling to have,’’ Lester said. “Tito has his own way of doing things, which was cool that day. That was a great story I’ll always remember, but at the same time it’s nice to sit in that office.

“It was one of those things he sat down with me, we were BS-ing about something, he just told me that. I don’t remember the exact date.’’

Lester threw 95 pitches in the Class A game. “I feel like I’m in a good place right now,’’ he said, though he indicated that he felt his curveball had “dragged for me’’ this spring.

“I don’t know if it’s arm strength, repetition, but it will come,’’ he said. “I’ll keep throwing it. It’ll be there.’’

Lester spoke about the eagerness some players have to begin the regular season, so they can begin to feel intensity that has been absent since they won the World Series.

“I live in an area [Atlanta] where people don’t care,’’ he said. “If you’re not a Brave, they don’t know who you are. It’s weird to go to Publix and walk around the grocery store and not worry about anything, go out to dinner.

“You go off that high from the duck boats, where everybody is screaming at you, to now you get just your 3-year-old screaming. It’s a little different.’’

You’ve never seen Lester in a grocery store? “I’m an awesome shopper,’’ he said.

Dot, dot, dots: Despite Wednesday’s result, Farrell said Webster is “much further along” than he was at this point in camp last spring. “Further along in areas where he’s more understanding of the type of pitcher he is, a better understanding of how to use his two-seamer particularly, even if location may have been a little bit less than it was in a couple of starts he made here, but I see him much further along. Last year, he was the talk of camp, coming in late in a game, pitching a couple of innings, but the ability to make adjustments more readily and the overall use of his stuff is much more refined to attack a hitter.’’ ... The Sox are expected to make final roster cuts Thursday. The only decision they may hold off on announcing is center field, waiting to see how Sizemore comes through Thursday night’s game against the Twins. The Sox still have 35 players in camp, including five nonroster invitees.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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