FORT MYERS, Fla. — Observations from the Red Sox‘ 9-8 loss to the Twins at the grand re-opening of Hammond Stadium.
PEDROIA GOES DEEP: Dustin Pedroia assured us that he was feeling healthy for the first time in years. It showed on his grand slam in the fourth.
“I knew I was back to normal in the offseason,” Pedroia said. “Obviously I told you guys that, but you can only believe me if you see it. So there you go.”
It goes without saying what difference a healthy Pedroia would make atop the Red Sox lineup. The home run against live pitching was good to see, particularly since he hadn’t exhibited tremendous power in early batting practice sessions.
“I don’t know that we’ve seen that type of swing in a good amount of time,” noted manager John Farrell.
“I’m just trying to come out and try to get better,” Pedroia said. “That’s all I’m focused on. I’m not worried about anything else. Every day, try to do something to help the team. That’s what I’m concentrating on.”
Might the grand slam be a sign?
“Just watch,” Pedroia said. “My job is to play. Your job is to watch.”
KELLY LOOSENS UP: Right-hander Joe Kelly wasn’t crisp, allowing a series of rockets in 1.2 innings that including seven hits, four runs, and two strikeouts. That’s nothing new for the former Cardinal, who traditionally struggles in spring, as his last four Grapefruit League ERAs attest: 6.28, 4.91, 3.60, 9.00.
“My springs aren’t usually good,” Kelly said. “My spring numbers are actually pretty terrible, from what I can remember.”
Kelly is incorporating a four-seam fastball into his repertoire and threw it quite a bit. While he touched 95 mph, he couldn’t put it where he wanted, which is to be expected this early in camp.
“I threw it a lot, yeah,” he said. “It’s just not there yet. It was moving a little bit more than I’d like it to, catching too much plate. I couldn’t spot it where it needs to be yet, but that’ll come.”
He acknowledged a lack of arm strength, which was reflected in an 88 mph fastball. “I don’t think I’ve done that since I was 13,” he joked.
In any event, Kelly was happy to throw his full pitch mix of four-seamer, two-seamer, curveball, slider, and changeup.
“Moving on forward, it’s just making everything a little more crisp, being able to locate my fastball better and throw it where it needs to be thrown, and get my offspeed pitches to spin a little better,” he said. “But that comes with arm strength, too.”
THE BOGAERTS CONUNDRUM: Shortstop Xander Bogaerts had a strong night at the plate, effortlessly crushing a home run over the 405-foot sign in center with a swing that makes you say, “Holy cow, this kid’s still only 22.”
But he also made a bad throw defensively on a ball that was generously ruled a hit. He ranged up the middle to snare a grounder, but Mike Napoli couldn’t scoop his low throw in the dirt. The range and first-step quickness were good. The throw was not.
“It always feel good when you make a play like that,” Bogaerts said. “I should’ve thrown it in Nap’s chest to get the out. It’s spring training, early on. That’s definitely a play in the regular season I’ll make.
“I don’t think I had a lot of problems fielding the ball (last year). Most of my errors were throwing. I’m just working with Butter and Sandoval and the other infielders to be more consistent with my throws.”
Pedroia said Bogaerts has clearly worked hard on his fielding over the last year.
“He’s working his butt off, all the right movements, trying to do a lot of things to get better,” Pedroia said. “The play he made up the middle, his first step, usually he dives and he hits the grass. He was on the dirt and grass so it’s almost there. If he dives and catches that ball on the dirt, his hand’s not wet and he can throw it to Nap’s chest. It was a great play. Those are the things he’s working on and it’s starting to show.
“That’s all infield play is. It’s just angle, first step, eliminating movements that shouldn’t be there. He’s getting better at it.”
The home run was majestic, standing out even on a night when the ball was flying out of the park.
“He looked great. He looked strong,” Pedroia said. “Every day he’s working at short too, working on his defense, trying to get better there. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
OGANDO THROWS GAS: The results weren’t tremendous, thanks to a two-run homer, but the Red Sox had to be encouraged by the spring debut of reliever Alexi Ogando, who hit 95 mph with multiple fastballs and struck out two in an inning.
The former All-Star is attempting to bounce back after posting a 6.84 ERA in 25 innings for the Rangers last year. At his best, he strikes out close to a batter an inning and could fill a key role in the Red Sox pen.