FORT MYERS, Fla. — So, here’s the deal …
The Red Sox will actually start playing baseball games Tuesday, with their usual pair of seven-inning tilts at JetBlue Park against Northeastern and Boston College, respectively. The first baseball of the spring will be thrown by Clay Buchholz at approximately 1 p.m. against the Huskies, with the matchup with BC kicking off about 30 minutes after the completion of the first of the two seven-inning games.
(Lucky for you, we will be broadcasting both games on WEEI-AM 850, so listen in.)
The scheduled order of Red Sox pitchers for Game 1 are as follows: Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Zeke Spruill, Dana Eveland, Anthony Varvaro and Mitchell Boggs. Game 2 pitchers will be: Wade Miley, Steven Wright, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Edwin Escobar, Dalier Hinojosa, Keith Couch and Noe Ramirez.
(For a list of which game each position player is assigned, see the bottom of this post.)
We may (and should) remember the day for the Sox and Eagles honoring former BC baseball player Pete Frates, who continues to fight ALS, with both clubs donning Frates’ No. 3. (To read more about the tribute, click here.)
From the perspective of building this year’s Red Sox roster, however, there are interesting elements you should be listening for. (Again, that’s listening for, since neither game is televised.)
– This marks the first time Hanley Ramirez has experienced game action in left field, getting the start against Northeastern.
He doesn’t seem nervous.
“I don’t put pressure on myself. I’m ready for anything,” Ramirez said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. I don’t have any negative thoughts. Everything is positive. I’m just going to be ready for everything.”
Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler — the man who has been charged the molding the first-time outfielder — offered more detailed picture of where Ramirez stood heading into his inaugural test in left.
“We’ve kind of done all we can do out here. He has to play,” Beyeler said. “He has to job on and off the field. He has to look for signs. We have to get game speed rolling a little bit. He’s drilled-out. He’s tired, which is a good thing because he’s working so hard. He’s not moving really well right now because he’s tired, which is a great thing because he’s working so hard. I think the first part of next week we can start talking fielding situations and what he’s thinking out there. We can start getting into game-speed things. Right now we can’t talk about that because he doesn’t know, and we don’t know. It will be kind of fun watching and see how he evolves.”
One subtle part of Ramirez’s new lot in life is simply not getting to bored while playing in the outfield. Remember, his previous position, shortstop, mandated that he be involved in numerous elements of reacting to any ball put in play.
“After [Tuesday] we’ll be able to talk about that,” Beyeler said. “I don’t think until he goes out there and physically realizes that this is kind of boring out there, then we’ll take about it a little bit.”
– The player residing to the left of Ramirez, center fielder Mookie Betts, is also still a work in progress despite his experience in the outfield last season.
One aspect of playing the position Betts and his coaches feel he has improved upon is throwing, as was evident during situational drills Monday when the center fielder routinely made strong accurate throws into home.
“Mookie is stretching his arm out a little bit,” Beyeler explained. “He’s getting a little more of a circle working, a little more extension and he’s starting to feel it. There’s a guy who has been doing it now all winter. It’s taken him a little time to lengthen it out because as an infielder you’re short. He’s starting to get a better feel for it. You see his ball getting some carry. You probably won’t see that on Hanley yet for another month or two because I don’t think his arm is in shape yet.”
“I’ve been trying to get longer in my throwing to get a little more carry. It’s something I worked on in the offseason,” Betts said. “I’ve got a little more carry on my ball now, but it’s still nothing compared to some of these guys. As long as it’s functional.”
– It will be interesting to see Porcello’s debut in a Red Sox uniform, although the starter warned earlier camp that spring training isn’t necessarily the best time to make judgments on his abilities.
As Porcello noted, he experienced his worst spring training of his career a year ago — finishing with a 7.85 ERA while giving up 27 hits in 18.1 Grapefruit League innings — but finished with the best regular season of his career.
– One of the radar gun readings to keep an eye on is surprisingly Breslow. The lefty believes has made some subtle adjustments that potentially could make a difference. “It feels like I’m throwing harder,” he said. “But we’ll see [Tuesday].”
– Another pitcher in the BC game, Workman, has seemingly made strides in fixing what had been a bread-and-butter four-seam fastball. That, along with the understanding that his role is to pitch just an inning or two, allows for some newfound optimism regarding the righty.
“The way he pitched last year physically, in one-inning stints, his stuff plays up a little bit more with power,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “A little bit more swing-and-miss ability with his fastball and his mentality is one that embraces those higher leverage type of innings.
“Last year because he was trying to manufacture some velocity it started to get a little rotational which would cause his hand to get on the outside of the ball and cause that cutting so the fact that he’s able to stay behind and create that 12-6 rotation it gets back to him being fresh and not having to overwork to create velocity.”
– Getting to see some of the prospects we’ve heard so much about is always a bonus. In this case one of the participants that should garner a fair amount of attention is Rodriguez, the pitcher the Red Sox got for Andrew Miller last non-waiver trade deadline.
“Very good. A left-hander that everyone can kind of see the kind of stuff he has,” said Farrell regarding his early impressions of the lefty. “But what’s been even more of a positive is you get an understanding of the aptitude, the intelligence that’s’ there. His ability to communicate and express things he’s dealing with on the mound or making a subtle adjustment. He’s a bright looking young prospect.”
– Here is how the Red Sox are breaking down the position players:
Northeastern: Christian Vazquez, Humberto Quintero, Luke Montz, Jeff Bianchi, Xander Bogaerts, Sean Coyle , Brock Holt, Bryan LaHair, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, Mookie Betts, Bryce Brentz, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino.
Boston College: Ryan Hanigan, Matt Spring, Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, Travis Shaw, Jemile Weeks, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley, Quintin Berry.