Pablo Sandoval (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox went to 16-0 in their spring training meetings with Northeastern, beating the Huskies 9-6, Thursday at JetBlue Park. Yippee.
We shouldn’t really care what the final score was, or that Red Sox reliever Jamie Callahan surrendered two runs, or hard-throwing Luis Ysla gave up two in just 2/3 innings. The reality was that a healthy chunk of the assumed 25-man roster was on the premises before first pitch, and those who stuck around had no idea what the final score was.
But there were reasons that you should have paid some attention to the goings on, regardless of who was playing for Mike Glavine’s Huskies. Here should be your takeaways:
– Sam Travis was one of a few Red Sox who were making their return to actual game competition after a season-ending injury at some point last year.
Before the game, both Travis and Red Sox manager John Farrell proclaimed the first baseman in relatively the same shape as when he dominated Grapefruit League action with a .469 batting average and 1.167 OPS in 18 games last season. And watching Travis serve as the Sox’s DH Thursday, it sure didn’t appear as though that knee surgery he had last June 1 was going to have any impact, with the righty hitter lining a three-run homer just over the left field wall.
“I feel great,” said the player who wears no batting glove or undershirt. “I’m ready to go.”
– There was also Blake Swihart, who found himself catching for the first time since last April. First there was a position change to the outfield, then came his season-ending ankle injury.
While his line-drive single was encouraging, sprinting home from first on Steve Selsky’s double off the left field wall was perhaps more impressive. And then there was his work behind the plate, which included an improved job of framing strikes, and no issues at all throwing the ball.
“I love that,” he said of his return to catching. “I love being involved in every play. I’ve said that from the beginning. That’s where I want to be.”
“I think any time you’re dealing with an ankle, and again the surgery has been successful and the rehab has obviously been there, too,” Farrell said. “Just to see the overall athleticism get back to the level previous. A number of positive things inside today.”
– The last reclamation project to emerge in fine fashion was Pablo Sandoval. The third baseman fielded all three of his chances cleanly, while stretching a line-drive into right field into a double (even sliding head-first).
“A lot of things to prove, man. A lot of things,” Sandoval said. “I just want to do everything I can out there, prove everything that I know that I can do on the field. I’m just going to be humble and keep playing the game the way I play.
“All three,” Farrell said of the returning trio. “There were a number of positive things inside an exhibition game. Panda, it’s been nearly a year since he’s been in a game, handled three balls cleanly. Good to see the swing he puts an a ball on a double down the right field line. Regardless of who the opponent is, when you miss that much time and you come back, and in his case particular, where he’s put a lot of work, it’s good to see it get off on a positive note. With Sam, he’s picked up seemingly right where he’s left off in swinging the bat. And Blake, I think today for just three innings of work, he received a number of pitches that were borderline that he got strikes. He looked much more under control back there and his receiving, I thought, was very clean.”
– While it’s impossible to read anything into Brian Johnson’s line — that included not allowing a hit while striking out three and walking one over two innings — seemingly approaching the form that put him on the Red Sox radar two spring trainings ago was a positive.
“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand better,” said the lefty, whose last two seasons had been derailed by an elbow injury, and then anxiety issues. “I felt like going to physical therapy three or four times a week last year, when I got here I felt my arm was already tired.”
– Mitch Moreland is evidently really good at kicking off spring training.
The new Red Sox first baseman hit a home run in his first spring training at-bat in 2015, taking Jake Arrieta deep. He went deep again in his first exhibition game of the season this time around, as well, blasting a three-run homer into the Sox’s bullpen in his second at-bat.
“Surprisingly, I felt really comfortable, really kind of loose and relaxed even though it’s spring training,” Moreland said. “It was a first day out there. It felt pretty good. Comfortable. You know had fun.”
– Not all was encouraging for the Red Sox, with Rusney Castillo’s issues with mastering game situations surfacing once again.
With one out in the third inning, and Marco Hernandez at first base, Castillo hit a grounder to shortstop. The outfielder basically jogged down to first, clearly forgetting how many outs there were, with the play resulting in a 6-4-3 double play.
“Disappointing for a couple of reasons,” Farrell said. “One, he has lost the number of outs. Still, regardless of another of outs, getting down the line is controllable. And for a player in his situation, every little aspect of the game is important. That’s something that was addressed in the moment. He needs to execute the game situation. And for that matter, every player. But that one obviously stood out.”