Friday, March 1, 2013
Takeaways: Sox 5, Bucs 2; Napoli A-OK
By Gordon Edes
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where it took all of one pitch for new first baseman Mike Napoli to be tested at first base, and where the ghost of Julian Tavarez was invoked by Jon Lester:
* The last notes of the anthem had barely faded out when Napoli, playing for the first time this spring, was called upon to handle a first-pitch push bunt by Pirates leadoff man Darren Ford, stepping on the bag in time to record the out.
"I got it out of the way quick," said Napoli, who could be seen laughing with second baseman Dustin Pedroia after the play. "I guess the ball finds you."
In the second inning, Napoli fielded a ground ball and flipped it to Lester for the out, then chased down a foul pop in front of the Pirates dugout. In the third inning, he recorded the putout on a ground ball to Pedroia, then cleanly scooped up a throw from Lester that reached him on a long bounce.
Jon Lester threw three scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk, and had two strikeouts.
"Looked like Julian Tavarez throwing the ball to first," Lester said, reviving memories of the former Sox reliever. "Same thing. Weird, but it worked."
Tavarez was known for rolling the ball underhanded to first.
"Like bowling," said Sox manager John Farrell, who had Tavarez on his staff when he was Sox pitching coach.
In all, Napoli handled eight chances, recording six putouts and registering two assists. "Couldn't have drawn it up any better," Farrell said after the 5-2 Red Sox win over the Pirates in JetBlue Park.
"That's the way I want it," said Napoli, who estimated infield coach Brian Butterfield has hit him a thousand grounders on the back fields here. "Get as many balls as possible over there.
"I felt I got everything out of the way the first two innings. I'd seen everything."
Offensively, Napoli, batting cleanup, lined a run-scoring single off the leg of Pirates lefty Jeff Locke in the first and came around to score, then struck out swinging in the third. He came out of the game after the fourth, when he was replaced by Mike Carp. Napoli said everything, including his legs, felt good.
"It was good to get him out there," said Lester, who threw three scoreless innings, allowing a hit and walking one while striking out two. "Another big piece of our lineup. We need him in the middle there to protect other guys and score a lot of runs hopefully because of him."
For now, the plan is for Napoli to play every other day.
"I feel good," he said. "My BPs have been great. My hands are working freely right now."
Sox manager John Farrell chatted with his son, Pirates infielder Jeremy, during batting practice.
* Former Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft but has not progressed the way the Pirates had hoped, caught the last four innings. He walked and scored a run in the eighth.
* Sox reliever Daniel Bard, originally on the list to pitch Friday, instead worked on his stride with pitching coach Juan Nieves, Farrell said. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday, then will return to game action Monday.