Today's report from the Fort:
Technically this was a split squad game vs. the Twins, but Farrell had a starting lineup with as many (if not more) regulars as in a typical ST game. Of course, the short bus ride helps.
Ellsbury got things rolling with a single up the middle. He advanced to 2B on an errant pickoff throw, and was knocked in via a single to RF by Drew (batting 3rd). Napoli grounded into a textbook 5-4-3 DP to end the inning.
With 2 outs in the 2nd, Nava singled to RF on an offspeed pitch. He then stole 2nd base. After a Sweeney walk, Sutton "doubled". Actually he hit an easy fly ball to the CF who lost it in the sun. Sweeney somehow didn't score despite there being 2 outs.
Pedroia led off the 3rd with a line single to CF. With 1 out, Napoli got a rare infield hit. It really should have been a 6-4 FC, but the SS blew the flip to the second baseman. LHP Thielbar entered the game, and Lavarnway hit a RBI single to CF, and Napoli was cut down trying to get to 3B.
Sweeney walked with 1 out in the 4th. Sutton enjoying a lucky day lofted a broken-bat single to LF. Pedroia doubled off the LF wall for 2 RBI. Drew was HBP, and Napoli followed with a HR to LF good for 3 RBI. Sox enjoying an 8-0 lead.
Facing RHP Walters, Salty worked a BB to start the 5th, but Nava followed with a 4-6-3 DP. Sweeney waited nicely on a slow curve and punched it to LF for a single. Sutton struck out swinging.
Sox went 1-2-3 very quickly in the 6th during my visit to the snack bar. Only in America Dept.: pulled pork is a condiment! You can get it piled on nachos, hot dogs, and who knows what else.
Facing RHP May in the 7th, Hamilton (Don't get excited, Cafardo!) walked. Butler then put on a great extended AB before going down on a foul-tip K. That man again Bradley Jr. singled to CF. Linares flied out to LF.
Meier walked with 1 out in the 8th, then stole 2B. Meneses put on a long AB before singling to CF. RHP Hermsen entered and hit Diaz with a pitch to load the bases. The rally was soon ended by a called K for Carp and a Hamilton flyout to LF.
On to the 9th. Butler short-hopped the CF wall for a leadoff double. The now officially unstoppable Bradley Jr. hit a line single to CF for a RBI. Linares chipped in a seeing-eye single into LF. Holt hit a comebacker to the P for an easy 1-6-3, but the relay to 2B sailed into CF, and Bradley Jr. scored. Maier hit into a 4-6 FC for the final Sox run.
Now over to the Sox pitchers today, where there was mostly good news.
Buchholz started and was everything Lester wasn't the day before. Clay was aggressive and generally ahead in the count during his 3 IP. He started nicely striking out Benson (swinging) on 3 pitches, and had a quick 1-2-3 first. In the 2nd, he gave up 1-out singles to Plouffe and Escobar before getting Clement to lunge awkwardly at a change for a popup to 1B and setting down Boggs on a called K. Two more called K's started off the 3rd inning. He got Benson with what looked like a nasty curve. Carroll grounded out for another 1-2-3 frame.
Hanrahan came in to start the 4th. Seeing him in person on the mound, my reaction was "It looks like Bobby Jenks is still on the team." Unfortunately, when Hanrahan left the game 6 batters and 1 out later, my reaction was "It looks like Bobby Jenks is still on the team." Hanrahan was popping the fastball at 94-96 mph on the Hammond scoreboard gun, but like Rubby the day before he got hit anyway. First batter Willingham lofted a foul pop by the rail near the first base box seats, and Napoli got an awful read and was nowhere near where the ball landed. That out would have helped given what would ensue. Hanrahan lost Willingham to a BB after being ahead in the count. Doumit singled to RF,as did Plouffe to load the bases. Escobar smacked a 96 mph fastball to RF for a RBI, and Clement also smacked a 96 mph pitch to CF for a single and another RBI. Boggs then hit a hanging slider deep down the RF line, but it hooked foul. He eventually struck out swinging on what looked to be a slider (86 mph) up high. Exit Hanrahan.
Carpenter relieved and surrendered a first-pitch single to CF for 2 RBI. Carroll launched a relatively deep flyball to Sweeney in RF, who pegged a textbook one-hop throw to the plate. Salty put a nifty tag on the runner's head for the 3rd out.
Uehara came in for the 5th. Started Willingham off with a 88 mph fastball, and then a pair of sliders (83 mph) for a called K. Doumit grounded out 3-U and Plouffe grounded out 5-3 for a tidy 1-2-3 inning. The impressive thing about watching Uehara was the assortment of pitches to the corners and especially his use of the very top and very bottom of the strike zone. He was a grandmaster today.
Not to be outdone, Bard pitched the 6th with Butler catching. Bard's first 3 pitches were 94 mph, 94 mph, and 96 mph in tight for swinging K (Escobar). He then dropped an 81 mph back door slider/curve (?) into the strike zone for a called K (Clement). Final K was a swing-and-miss by Boggs on a fastball. All speeds per the Hammond scoreboard. He definitely hit 96 more than once, and the fastballs were going where he intended. He looked great. Understandably, Farrell did not send Bard out for another inning after he struck out the side.
Mr. Webster then took the mound, working quickly which is always nice. Olmeda grounded out 4-3, Benson struck out swinging on a nice slider. Bernier then saw a 96 mph fastball for strike 2 before striking out swinging on a 88 mph slider/cutter.
Ortiz led off the bottom of the 8th with a liner deep to the RCF gap. Bradley Jr. made a long run and a diving attempt at a catch, but it bounced in and out of his glove for a triple. He probably thinks he should have caught it. If he had, he would have really turned up the pressure to bring him North for Opening Day. Fryer hit a SF to CF, and Plouffe grounded out 5-3. First pitch to Escobar was clocked at 98 mph, and was weakly fouled off to the opposite field. The next pitch was 97 mph, but was roped into RF for a single. Clement went down on a foul-tip swinging K (94 mph).
On to the 9th. Boggs retired via a swinging K (92 mph fastball/78 mph slurve/85 mph slider) Lehman lined out to CF, before Benson struck out swinging on a hard slider. Webster garners the 3-inning save with 5 K's.
Very early impressions dept.:
1) Napoli has some defensive shortcomings at 1B, but more reps there could help him in time. Offensively, however, he looks great with the taters. Can he go the distance with his hip issues, or will he collapse in a heap running out a routine grounder the first week of August?
2) Bradley Jr. - putting on a show, but the game is NOT this easy, right?
3) I like Meneses' swing at the plate. We'll see what he does in the minors this year.
4) Salty looked good behind the plate today. He was very quiet and smooth receiving pitches, and made that nice tag to save a run.
5) The ex-Dodgers De La Rosa and Webster have some real stuff.
6) It would be fantastic if Bard can maintain his positive momentum.