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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Quick hits: Red Sox 9, Marlins 0

By Joe McDonald

The outcome: The Red Sox made the most of their three-hour trek across the Sunshine State with a 9-0 victory over the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. While most of the Red Sox veterans remained in Fort Myers, a group of younger prospects got the job done.

After Tim Wakefield worked three scoreless innings, allowing two hits with one strikeout on 30 pitches (22 strikes), Boston’s offensive surge was led by outfielder Josh Reddick, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.

Red Sox infielder Gil Velazquez continued to pound the ball this spring and provided two RBIs. Catcher Dusty Brown also drove in a pair of runs.

The notable: Wakefield was solid again. After his second smooth start this spring, he was asked to throw 20 more pitches in the bullpen. He’s thrown a total of five scoreless innings and has allowed only three hits. He will get an extra day’s rest before pitching again Monday against the Orioles. He will increase his workload to four or five innings.

“I felt good,” he said. “My body feels good. My arm feels good. I had good crispness on my knuckleball.”

The 43-year-old has shown no ill effects from offseason back surgery. There was a swinging bunt during Tuesday’s outing and when he hopped off the mound to retrieve it, he knew he had no shotat getting the out. The good news is he was able to at least give it a bid; late last season there was no way he would have been able to get off the mound because of his injury.

“I can’t get that anymore,” he said with a smile. “I don’t care if I’m 23, I probably don’t make that play.”

Coming into spring training Red Sox management had questions about whether the veteran knuckleballer would be healthy. He’s answered any doubts.

“Good. Real good,” Francona said of Wakefield after the game. “He was throwing strikes and I thought Dusty [Brown] did a good job with him. He threw a couple of fastballs, but he threw a lot of knuckleballs in the zone that were moving and that’s a nice combination.”

This will be Wakefield’s 16th season in Boston.

“We sort of take it for granted, which we shouldn’t,” said Francona. “He’s just really good. Age hasn’t caught up with him. I know there have been times when he’s been hurt and not able to finish the year, but when he’s out there, he’s pretty good.”

Francona also knows he has six starting pitchers for five spots at this point, which means management will have to make a decision soon. But Francona doesn’t seem too worried about it.

“We’ve gone through considerably more than six starters every year, except for one year [2007],” said Francona. “That’s not a problem. If come Opening Day, we happen to have too many starters, we’ll figure it out. These things always find a way to work themselves out.”

Prospect watch: Reddick made his major league debut with the Red Sox last summer, and that experience has no doubt helped him this spring. Statistics really don’t mean much during camp, but it’s obvious he’s feeling very good at the plate with a .471 average during Grapefruit League action.

This was the type of game for the young players to get a few at-bats because of the travel schedule and the veterans back in Fort Myers.

“This is a good day for some of these young guys," Francona said. "They get four or five at-bats and they get to play. It’s actually a fun day for all of us. They all swung the bat very well.”

Progress report: Infielder Jed Lowrie started at second base on Tuesday. He continues to test his surgically repaired wrist. Earlier in camp, he said the left wrist was a bit fatigued, but Francona wants Lowrie to play every other day, while trying not to play him too much.

The plan is to move Lowrie around the infield this spring in order to get a better evaluation of where he is health-wise.

“The more he can move around, the more valuable he becomes,” said Francona. “He’s a switch-hitter and he can play all over, which is nice.”

There is some thought the Red Sox would want Lowrie to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, similar to what pitcher Clay Buchholz did last season, in order to get the necessary amount of playing time to prove he’s healthy and can be productive. If he can accomplish that during spring training, however, it’ll give management another tough decision to make once the club breaks camp.

Up next: The Red Sox will host the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:05 p.m. on Wednesday at City of Palms Park. Jon Lester, Brian Shouse, Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard are scheduled to pitch for Boston.

Etc: Like most of the veteran players, J.D. Drew remained in Fort Myers while the younger players made the cross-state trek. Drew has been battling a cold, according to Francona, and will be given Wednesday off. ... Jason Varitek has not rejoined the club after being given the OK to attend to a personal family matter. ... Jeremy Hermida was acquired by Boston in a trade with the Marlins this past offseason, and the outfielder made the trip to his former spring training home to play against his former team on Tuesday. “It’s fun to come back over here and play these guys,” he said. “It was good to see some familiar faces and get to see some of the guys on the staff.”