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Twins 9, Sox 8: Pedroia's power is back

3/6/2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from Boston’s 9-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins in its Grapefruit League exhibition opener Thursday night in Hammond Stadium:

• Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia wasted no time in making his case that he is fully recovered from the thumb and wrist issues that plagued him the last two seasons, hitting a grand slam as part of a 3-for-3 night in which he also doubled and singled.

“I knew I was back to normal in the offseason,’’ said Pedroia, who seems to have taken as a personal affront any suggestion made last year that his injuries might not bode well for the future. “Obviously I told you that, but you can only believe it if you see it.’’

Should we expect to see a lot of it?

“Just watch, man,’’ Pedroia said. “My job is to play. Your job is to watch.’’

Pedroia’s slam in the fourth inning, a drive that cleared the fence in left-center, came off Twins non-roster invitee Ryan O’Rourke, a left-hander who played his high school ball at St. John’s of Shrewsbury and was drafted out of Merrimack College by the Twins in the 13th round in 2010.

“We saw Pedey get to a pitch on the inside part of the plate, I don’t know that we’ve seen that type of swing in a good amount of time,’’ Sox manager John Farrell said. “That’s a swing we’ve all seen in the past from Pedey, but the number of nagging things he’s dealt with, it’s limited him the past couple of years.’’

• Red Sox starter Joe Kelly threw 44 pitches, 29 for strikes, which represents the upside of his night. The downside? The Twins hit him at will. Kelly faced a dozen batters and gave up hits to seven of them, including a triple to Aaron Hicks and doubles to Oswaldo Arcia and Danny Santana. Kelly was charged with four runs before departing with two out in the second.

For what it’s worth, Kelly said he has never pitched well in spring training, an assertion borne out by the numbers: He had a 6.28 ERA in four spring starts for the Cardinals last year, and a 4.91 ERA in six appearances (three starts) in 2013.

“I’m a little tired,’’ he said. “I threw a lot of pitches. My body feels good. My arm feels good. That’s the key for me right now. My stuff wasn’t as crisp as it usually is. I threw an 88 mile-an-hour fastball. I don’t know if I’ve done that since I was 13, but physically my body feels great.

“I had three guys in my mind, I had 0-and-2, but just didn’t have the stuff to finish them off. Tried to get a fastball up, threw it down the middle. Tried to bury a curveball, made it hittable. Tried to bury a slider, made it hittable. Good thing I was getting ahead of hitters, was mentally there and knew what I wanted to do with the batters. Just didn’t execute.’’

Kelly threw all five of his pitches -- fastball, two-seamer, curve, change and slider -- but struggled most with his four-seamer, which moved more than he liked and caught too much of the plate.

“The crispness will come,’’ he said.

• Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts homered to dead center off Twins right-hander Tim Stauffer in the third and also made a nice diving play on a ball hit up the middle by Kurt Suzuki in the third, though he bounced his throw to Mike Napoli. An encouraging sign, nonetheless, that the work Bogaerts did on improving his first-step quickness is paying off.

• Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who had not been hitting the ball with authority in the early stages of camp, hit a gap double and also had an infield single, a good start toward building a case that he is a better hitter than the rookie who batted .198 last season.

“Just trying to focus on making good habits and continue to progress,’’ said Bradley, who has eliminated much of the movement in his setup. “A work in progress.’’

• Reliever Alexi Ogando, looking to win a job after two years of arm trouble in Texas, hit 95 on the Hammond Stadium radar gun. He also gave up a two-run home run to Eduardo Escobar to right-center in the third.

• Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, in his Red Sox exhibition debut, flied out and grounded back to the pitcher in his only two plate appearances. Left fielder Hanley Ramirez is expected to make his spring debut Friday at JetBlue Park against one of his former teams, the Miami Marlins.

• Farrell said before the game that Rusney Castillo, out with a strained left oblique muscle, was much improved Thursday, but emphasized that the Sox intend to proceed cautiously with the Cuban outfielder. There still appears to be a pretty good likelihood that Castillo could start the season either in Pawtucket or extended spring.

• A club source said Thursday that there has been no talk of trading right fielder Shane Victorino.

• The Sox remain mum on when the signing of 19-year-old Cuban Yoan Moncada will become official, although an announcement could be forthcoming as soon as Friday. The Sox were awaiting the results of Moncada’s drug testing, a league source said.