Welcome to Goose’s Gabs’ Spring Training Wrap-Up! Every week, we’ll recap all the week’s Red Sox spring training games. We’ll mention who looks good, who looks bad, and which minor leaguers just might be making an appearance at Fenway this season. Let’s get things started with Boston’s opening weekend, in which they played split-squad against Boston College and Northeastern University on Saturday, then began defending the Mayor’s Cup against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Red Sox 6, Eagles 0
Although Red Sox pitching, led by Single-A Salem’s Stolmy Pimentel (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 K, W), held the Eagles to just one hit and one walk in seven innings, the big story of the game was Kevin Youkilis, who hit a three-run home run off Boston College starting right-hander Geoff Oxley in the first inning. Youkilis also made a diving stop in the first inning at third base. Great to see him healthy, great to see him hitting, great to see him having success at third base.
Also playing in Saturday’s afternoon game was Dustin Pedroia, who went 0-1 with a walk and a run scored. Pedroia appeared to have no trouble running out a grounder in the second inning after having a pin inserted in his left foot last season. A healthy Youkilis and Pedroia means the Red Sox will have five or six legitimate power threats in the middle of their lineup.
Ryan Kalish had a strong day, going 1-2 with an RBI and a stolen base, as did non-roster invitee Brent Dlugach, who went 2-2 with a run while playing shortstop. On the mound, non-roster invitee Clevelan Santeliz struck out the side in the fifth.
Red Sox 13, Huskies 2
The Red Sox welcomed back more injured stars with Saturday’s nightcap against Northeastern University. Jacoby Ellsbury led off in center field and Mike Cameron played DH, the two combing to go 0-3 with a walk.
The biggest star of the game was shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias, who went 2-3 with two runs scored and three RBIs. Center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin scored two runs and knocked in two more despite going 0-2, while left fielder Peter Hissey went 1-2 with two RBIs.
On the mound, starter Kyle Weiland gave up a first-pitch home run to Huskies lead-off hitter Ryan Maguire. In two innings of work he allowed two hits, an earned run and a walk while striking out two. He did not factor in the decision, as the Red Sox were held scoreless until the fourth inning, when they scored five runs. They scored two more in the fifth, then six in the sixth.
The win went to Rich Hill, who pitched one inning of one-hit, one-run and one-strikeout baseball. Hill has a shot at making the major-league roster. Matt Albers looked impressive doing mop-up duty in the seventh, not allowing a base-runner while striking out two.
Twins 8, Red Sox 4
Carl Pavano out-dueled Josh Beckett in Boston’s first Grapefruit League game on Sunday. Pavano pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out two. Beckett also pitched two innings, allowing two hits and an earned run. Beckett did not record a strikeout and took the loss.
Clay Buchholz fared far better than Beckett, pitching two perfect innings while striking out one. Beckett will have to do better if he wants to supplant Buchholz as the number two starter in the rotation, let alone reclaim his title as staff ace.
But the worst pitching performance goes to Hideki Okajima, who turned a one-run deficit after four innings into a five-run deficit after five. Okajima gave three consecutive singles, then a triple to center fielder Joe Benson. Okajima gave up another RBI single before finishing the inning. He gave up five hits and struck out two. Okajima has seemed to deteriorate a little bit more every season, and a rough start to the 2011 pre-season does not bode well. Then again, it’s just one inning.
At the plate, the Red Sox didn’t start scoring until the eighth inning, when they were already down 6-0. Lars Anderson, potential reserve first baseman, led off with a solo home run, and Josh Reddick kicked in a pinch-hit RBI single to cap off a three-run inning. In the ninth, after the Twins tacked on two more runs to make it 8-3, catcher Mark Wagner hit another solo home run, but the Red Sox could not come back any further.
We shouldn’t be overly concerned with anything the Red Sox did in their first few spring training games. The pre-season exists to help players gradually prepare for the regular season. Pitchers tend to take longer to get in shape than hitters, so seeing Beckett and even Okajima struggle is not cause for panic quite yet. But on the flip side, it’s great to see players like Youkilis, Ellsbury and Pedroia out there and moving normally. Injuries derailed a promising team last season, and Red Sox fans can look at these initial games as signs that their beloved players are now injury-free.
And that’s worth far more than any Mayor’s Cup.