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Red Sox Morning Notes: Friday

03.05.10 at 9:23 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s a big day for the half of the Red Sox‘ top six starters, as both Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield are scheduled to make their first Grapefruit League starts on the other side of Fort Myers against the Twins, while Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session of the spring.

In other health-related news, manager Terry Francona reports that Mike Lowell was politicking to get into next Wednesday’s game in Fort Myers.

“Obviously, he’s feeling good,” said Francona. “I still think that’s a little quick.”

Francona said that if all goes well, Lowell could more likely see his first game activity on Sat., March 13, after a pair of road games on the East Coast of the state. Ideally, Francona would like to use Lowell as a DH, but said that could present a logistical challenge, given the need to have David Ortiz get at-bats.

Here’s the Red Sox lineup for today’s game:

Cameron, 8
Hall, 9
Martinez, 2
Drew, DH
Lowrie, 4
Anderson, 3
Kalish, 7
Navarro, 5
Iglesias, 6

SP – Lester

Other developments in the Fort:

Dustin Pedroia, who was mentioned briefly as a possibility to play shortstop this year before the team signed Marco Scutaro, said that he hasn’t taken any grounders at short this spring. Indeed, he couldn’t recall the last time that he had taken grounders at the position, positing that he likely hadn’t done so since 2006.

Terry Francona had his Michael Jordan experience when he managed the basketball legend in the minors in 1994. Mike Cameron had his own memorable encounters with His Airness when both were White Sox minor leaguers. As it turns out, the Sox actually have three generations of people who had memorable baseball encounters with Jordan.

Casey Kelly recalled that he got to meet Jordan when he was a four-year-old scrambling around ballparks with his father.

“My dad was with Chattanooga. All the players asked me to get his autograph because they were too afraid to. I would just nonchalantly go up and say, ‘Hey Mike, would you sign this?'” Kelly grinned. “He always would.”

–Francona appears in a couple scenes in the movie “Major League.” He can be seen coming off the field from first base, wearing No. 24 for the Indians.

–Francona said that Tim Wakefield is positioned to assume a normal spring workload.

“He’s actually been throwing the ball great,” Francona said. “No reason for him not to pitch.”

–Francona said that Jed Lowrie seems to be feeling good, though his wrist fatigues after activity. The manager also thinks that Lowrie has been somewhat tentative in both his swing and while trying to backhand the ball.

“I think you’ll see a bit more bat speed when he gets more confident,” said Francona, noting that David Ortiz went through something similar when he returned from his wrist injury in 2008.

More to come shortly…

Read More: casey kelly, Dustin Pedroia, Michael Jordan,

Lineup for the big rematch

03.05.10 at 9:13 am ET
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News flash: Mike Cameron is leading off in the Red Sox‘ game against … you guessed it … the Twins. (That’s right, the same Mike Cameron whose career was helped shaped by Michael Jordan.)

The Sox’ lineup: Cameron CF, Hall RF, Martinez C, Drew DH, Lowrie 2B, Anderson 1B, Kalish LF, Navarro 3B, Iglesias SS, Lester P. Following up the Red Sox’ starter will be Tim Wakefield, followed by last year’s WBC closer for Team Puerto Rico, Fernando Cabrera, followed by a finalist for the reality show “Knight School,” Dustin Richardson, followed by one of the Ramon Ramirez‘ (The one with the ‘A’ in the middle), and finally Robert Manuel and Randor Bierd.

Carl Pavano, he of the one-year, $7 million contract, will start for the Twins. By the way, the Twins’ payroll at a surprisingly high $93 million this season.

As for Cameron, the last time he led off in the regular season game was in 2008, a season in which he manned the lineup’s top spot 13 times (hitting .204). Also of note: Drew has only been in the cleanup spot four times since joining the Red Sox, but is hitting .571 in the spot with four hits in seven at-bats to go with a remarkable five walks.

Web Site Of The Day: This allows you to plug in the spray chart for any player’s performance in a certain park and see how it translates to another park. For instance, if you want to see how Mike Lowell’s game last year at Fenway would play in Texas, this is the place to go. Click here to try it out.

What’s New with the Red Sox: Thursday

03.05.10 at 6:55 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts.

The Red Sox commenced official Grapefruit League play on Thursday, renewing their spring crosstown rivalry with the Minnesota Twins. The Sox began their effort to build upon their three-peat in the Mayor’s Cup competition for exhibition season superiority with a 2-1 victory that was notable for solid pitching performances and the unseasonable chill in Fort Myers.

“Everything the Red Sox ever gave me,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, “I wore.”

Here are the news items to emerge from the day:

Josh Beckett gave up the only Red Sox run of the day, but he took satisfaction with his two innings of work. He noted that five of his six outs came via groundball (the other was a called third strike), suggesting that his spring focus on locating his fastball down in the strike zone is paying dividends. In 2009, Beckett recorded a career-best groundball-to-flyball ratio, and he is clearly hoping to stick to the approach that produced those results.

‘€œI think just keeping the ball down, you’€™re going to get more groundballs,’€ said Beckett. ‘€œThe top half of the ball is more exposed than the middle part and the bottom, so I think you’€™re just going to get more groundballs by keeping the ball down.’€

–Beckett went 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 2009, but given that he did become more of a groundball pitcher, and given the deficiencies of the Sox’ left-side infield defense last year, there is reason to believe that his down-in-the-zone approach could pay even greater dividends in 2010. Towards that end, Beckett seemed impressed by having Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro behind him on Thursday. Scutaro in particular made a couple of standout plays, including the initiation of a 6-4-3 double play.

Jonathan Papelbon made his first game appearance of the spring, throwing four splitters among his 13 pitches. Francona was pleased with the depth of the pitch, which everyone around the Sox considers a key element to making the closer more efficient after a 2009 season when, despite spectacular numbers (1.85 ERA, 38 saves in 41 chances), he sometimes had to labor through the ninth inning.

‘€“Mike Cameron appears set to play centerfield on Friday against the Twins, barring any setback. Cameron is wearing No. 23 this spring, a number that he has not worn since the minor leagues, when he spent an extraordinary time as a teammate of another No. 23: Michael Jordan. As a 21-year-old, Cameron had a rare opportunity to hang with the NBA legend during his experiment as a minor league baseball player.

‘€œWe’€™d hang out all the time,’€ said Cameron. ‘€œI’€™d say, ‘€˜I just want to hang out with you, see what it’€™s like.’€™’€

For more, click here.

J.D. Drew is still slated to be the designated hitter on Friday. Daisuke Matsuzaka will throw a bullpen session on Friday morning. Tim Wakefield will get the start for the Sox, who will invade the Twins’ park of Hammond Stadium in Round 2 of the five-game Mayor’s Cup. Wakefield appears to be progressing well this spring, and showing few lingering effects from his offseason surgery on his lower back. ‘€œHe’€™s a unique pitcher,’€ said Francona. ‘€œHis three sides coming into this game, he’€™s been great. Ball’€™s all over the place. ‘€¦ I think he’€™s right where he’€™s supposed to be.’€

–Francona said that while it can be difficult to move all over the diamond for a player like Bill Hall, he praised the role player for embracing the responsibility. ‘€œHe knows our intentions are to get him at-bats,’€ said Francona. Hall is slated to get starts in the coming days at both shortstop and in right field.

Casey Fein, who was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon ‘€” just three days after the Sox claimed him from the Tigers ‘€” barely had time to make introductions and unpack his bags before changing clubs again. ‘€œThat was a quickie,’€ said Francona. ‘€œHow you doing and thanks for coming.’€

Casey Kelly will be making his next start against the Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday. That happens to be Kelly’€™s hometown, and so his outing will no doubt be a significant event for the young pitcher. Francona thought that pitching coach John Farrell had tried to draw up the schedule to permit just such an outcome. For his part, Kelly is looking forward to the outing.

“It will be a lot of fun,” said Kelly. “I’ll probably have a bunch of people from my hometown come to watch. It will be exciting. … I’m sure I’ll get as many [tickets] as I can, and then have people buying out the stadium.”

–Francona joined the chorus of those praising Jose Iglesias for his adjustment to the culture, in particular, his advanced knowledge of English, which he speaks without an accent. ‘€œHe says he watches a ton of TV [to learn the language],’€ Francona chuckled. ‘€œSo do I. It doesn’€™t help.’€

Ryan Kalish‘€™s aggressiveness on the field drew praise from the skipper. On Wednesday night, Kalish advanced from first to third on a ball that never left the infield, sprinting hard for the extra base when the ball was bobbled.

‘€œWhenever he plays, he’€™ll be one of the manager’€™s and coaches’€™ favorite guys,’€ said Francona. ‘€œHe’€™s like an animal out there.’€

Kalish said that he finds a natural affinity with the aggressive and intense style of play of both Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.

For more on Kalish, the promising outfield prospect who turns 22 later this month, click here.

Read More: Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis

Post-Game Notes: Red Sox 2, Twins 1

03.04.10 at 9:29 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Josh Beckett, the success of his first start of the Grapefruit League season was easy to measure. Beckett allowed a run on two hits in two innings, striking out one, walking none, and throwing 19 of his 27 pitches for strikes. Yet he defined his effectiveness with another gauge.

“I feel like I kept the ball down well. There were five groundballs [and] two hits ‘€“ one a line drive, the other a groundball,” said Beckett. “Things we’€™ve been working on the last two weeks, I’€™m getting there.”

That Beckett would now measure the success of his performance in terms of grounders represents an interesting evolution of his approach. In 2009, he matched his career best groundball-to-flyball ratio (0.91 to 1, compared to a big league average of 0.81-to-1) and set a new career standard by producing 1.28 groundouts per flyout (more than 20 percent better than the MLB average of 1.06-to-1).

The 29-year-old says that he has not been trying to redefine himself as a groundball pitcher, but that the area of emphasis in his game over the last two seasons has lent itself to a development in that direction. He has incorporated a two-seam fastball that has become as much a swing-and-miss pitch as a groundball-inducing one. As much as that two-seamer with both tail and sink, his ability to work down in the strike zone with his four-seam fastball (the primary pitch that he featured on Thursday) has been a huge factor in his increasing talent for keeping the ball on the ground.

“I think just keeping the ball down, you’€™re going to get more groundballs,” said Beckett. “The top half of the ball is more exposed than the middle part and the bottom, so I think you’€™re just going to get more groundballs by keeping the ball down.”

–Of the 13 pitches that Jonathan Papelbon threw in his first inning of Grapefruit League action, he estimated that he threw four splitters. That, of course, is a pitch that Papelbon has prioritized this spring in an effort to present opponents with a broader mix of pitches for which they must account.

Though the pitch didn’€™t result in any swings and misses on Thursday, Papelbon seemed pleased with the action of his splitter, including one that resulted in a foul ball straight into the ground and another that produced a called strike.

Papelbon suggested that he has taken a greater focus into spring this year. He is not shy about saying that his goal is greatness, and that after some struggles in 2009 (and a season that ended on a note of disappointment, when his 0.00 ERA in the postseason finally took a hit in Game 3 of the ALDS), he is driven to make the needed adjustments.

‘€œI think the day I stepped foot in a big league uniform I’€™ve always strived to be a great athlete,’€ said Papelbon. ‘€œBut I’€™ve also said too [that] to be a great athlete comes with a lot of hard work and a lot of challenges and a lot of adjustments.

‘€œI feel like right now, I’€™m just in a phase in my career where I’€™m having to make adjustments and having to realize the challenges ahead of me and evolve my game. I see how it is ‘€“ it’€™s very simple when you look at it. It’€™s just an evolving time for my game and who I am and what I do.’€

–The double play tandem of Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia got its first unveiling in a game, and the results were solid. In particular, Beckett praised the pair for turning a double play when Scutaro ranged to his right on a hard-hit ball by Michael Cuddyer to start a 6-4-3 double play.

‘€œThat was a great double-play on a 3-and-1 pitch. That’€™s the pitch I’€™ve been talking about since day one of spring training. You don’€™t have to make a perfect pitch. You make a decent pitch, and the guys behind you pick you up,’€ said Beckett.

‘€œI don’€™t think [the pitchers] have talked about [the defensive improvement], but I think it’€™s just known. Obviously the defense is really going to help us with not having to make the perfect pitch. They’€™re bad situations for us when we’€™re behind in the count with guys on base, but I feel like you can just make a good pitch, and if the ball is put in play, you’€™ve got a good chance of getting some outs.’€

–Catcher Mark Wagner delivered the game-winning hit for the Red Sox after entering the game in the top of the eighth inning. He lined a single to left with Josh Reddick (who lined a leadoff double to right) on third to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth. Reddick’s ball had surprising carry to right field on a chilly night, and Twins right fielder Rene Tosoni misjudged it, thus permitting it to sail over his head.

–The Sox bullpen combined to produce seven shutout innings. Scott Atchison got the win with a scoreless eighth, and Joe Nelson had the save by putting up a zero in the ninth.

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon, Josh Beckett, josh reddick, marco scutaro

Beckett and Papelbon are in the books

03.04.10 at 7:59 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Both Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon made their first appearances of the exhibition season. Beckett turned in a pair of innings, allowing a run on two hits while striking out one. He threw 27 pitches, 19 of them for strikes. He relied chiefly on four-seam fastballs, including one to produce a 6-4-3 double play (the first twin killing produced by Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia) at the end of the first, and he froze Jacque Jones with a fastball on the inside corner for a called third strike in the second inning.

Papelbon then entered the game for the third inning, during which he retired the Twins in order (no strikeouts in that mix). He threw 13 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Beckett said that he was pleased with his outing, noting specifically that he did a good job of driving the ball into the bottom half of the strike zone to produce groundballs.

“I feel like I kept the ball down well. There were five groundballs [and] two hits ‘€“ one a line drive, the other a groundball,” said Beckett. “Things we’€™ve been working on the last two weeks, I’€™m getting there.”

Red Sox Pre-Game Notes: Wednesday

03.04.10 at 4:18 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s a late day in Fort Myers, with the Red Sox and Twins preparing to renew their annual epic battle for the Mayor’s Cup. The Red Sox have thus put a fairly formidable lineup together for tonight’s game, with a lineup that features six everyday players and seven players likely to break camp:

Ellsbury, 7
Pedroia, 4
Ortiz, DH
Youkilis, 3
Beltre, 5
Scutaro, 6
Hermida, 9
Reddick, 8
Brown, 2

Josh Beckett will be on the mound for the Sox. Once again, Sox manager Terry Francona praised the work ethic and commitment of the right-hander.

“He’s solid. He works. He’s accountable. … Players love him,” said Francona.

Francona recalled hearing that Beckett was “brash” when the team acquired him from Florida after the 2005 season, but recalls being struck that the way in which the pitcher committed to his profession in 2006 was a bit different than what he had been led to believe.

Francona thought that the right-hander would pitch two innings tonight, but wasn’t certain of that plan.

A few notes from the rest of his pre-game meeting with the media:

Mike Cameron appears set to play centerfield on Friday against the Twins, barring any setback.

J.D. Drew is still slated to be the designated hitter on Friday.

Casey Fein, who was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon — just three days after the Sox claimed him from the Tigers — barely had time to make introductions and unpack his bags before changing clubs again. “That was a quickie,” said Francona. “How you doing and thanks for coming.”

Tim Wakefield is the scheduled starter for the Sox on Friday. He appears to be progressing well this spring, and showing few lingering effects from his offseason surgery on his lower back. “He’s a unique pitcher,” said Francona. “His three sides coming into this game, he’s been great. Ball’s all over the place. … I think he’s right where he’s supposed to be.”

–Francona said that while it can be difficult to move all over the diamond for a player like Bill Hall, he praised the role player for embracing the responsibility. “He knows our intentions are to get him at-bats,” said Francona. Hall is slated to get starts in the coming days at both shortstop and in right field.

Ryan Kalish‘s aggressiveness on the field drew praise from the skipper. On Wednesday night, Kalish advanced from first to third on a ball that never left the infield, sprinting hard for the extra base when the ball was bobbled.

“Whenever he plays, he’ll be one of the manager’s and coaches’ favorite guys,” said Francona. “He’s like an animal out there.”

Casey Kelly will be making his next start against the Orioles in Sarasota on Sunday. That happens to be Kelly’s hometown, and so his outing will no doubt be a significant event for the young pitcher. Francona thought that pitching coach John Farrell had tried to draw up the schedule to permit just such an outcome.

–Francona joined the chorus of those praising Jose Iglesias for his adjustment to the culture, in particular, his advanced knowledge of English, which he speaks without an accent. “He says he watches a ton of TV [to learn the language],” Francona chuckled. “So do I. It doesn’€™t help.”

Read More: bill Hall, Josh Beckett, ryan kalish, Tim Wakefield

What’s new with the Red Sox: Wednesday

03.04.10 at 7:53 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — “Nothing fancy, just the facts.”

After a pair of exhibition games — one against Northeastern, and another against Boston College — the Sox are now 14 innings, 47 players and 21 runs of offense into their exhibition season. As one might guess, the return to games meant of wealth of knowledge to be gleaned:

Casey Kelly threw a 1-2-3 scoreless inning in 10 pitches. His fastball was 90-92 mph, and he recorded a pair of strikeouts on his changeup. Interestingly, Kelly learned the change just one year ago in spring training. It is now his best off-speed pitch. For much more on Kelly, click here.

Boof Bonser sounded relieved after delivering a scoreless inning in the nightcap against BC. While his fastball sat at 88-91 mph, he was enthusiastic about the way that his shoulder responded to its first game test since arthroscopic surgery late last February. For more on Bonser, click here.

–Both Bonser and Kelly are slated to pitch next on Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles.

–To some, the image of Tim Wakefield working with 18-year-old Eri Yoshida of Japan on her knuckleball was an interesting human interest story. To Wakefield, it was far more than that, since the moment offered an echo of when his work with a pair of coaches for a women’s professional baseball team in Fort Myers helped to save his career. Of course, it helped Wakefield quite a bit that the coaches of the Colorado Silver Bullets happened to be Phil and Joe Niekro. For more, click here.

Lou Merloni sat down with Jonathan Papelbon to review the closer’s blown save in Game 3 of the Divison Series. In that inning, Papelbon’s inability to use his split made him vulnerable. Merloni suggests that Papelbon’s split is looking significantly improved this spring. Read the rest of this entry »

Postgame Notes: Red Sox 6, Boston College 1

03.03.10 at 9:01 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox finished off a long day of work with a 6-1 victory over Boston College in the second half of a day-night doubleheader at City of Palms Park. The first day of competitive action this spring thus saw the Sox outscore their collegiate opponents (BC and Northeastern) by a combined 21-1 count, with Boston outhitting their opponents by a 22-5 margin on a day that saw 47 Boston players enter into game.

A roundup from the nightcap:

Boof Bonser sailed through his inning of work, retiring all three batters he faced and recording a strikeout. He threw seven of his nine pitches for strikes, including a swing-and-miss curve for his punchout. One scout had his fastball registering between 88-91 mph.

For Bonser, even though he was pitching against a college team, the occasion was significant. A year ago, he underwent arthroscopic surgery in the last week of February, before he could pitch in any games. The opportunity to return to competition was invigorating for the 28-year-old.

“It went great. I’€™m glad it’€™s over. This is my first spring training game in pretty much two years. People say it’€™s a college team. Well, to me, a college team wants to beat your brains in more than the regular team does,” said Bonser. “I was part of the team last year, but now that I’€™m playing, it’€™s kind of a whole ‘nother ballgame.”

Bonser said that less significant than his stuff was the fact that his shoulder felt “normal, like I’m healthy again without any problems,” and that he was able to loosen up easily for his outing. He was satisfied with the fastballs, curve and change that he threw (his short inning did not permit him time to throw a slider), but noted that the pitches were secondary.

“The biggest key was the shoulder, being able to let it ride,” said Bonser.

Manager Terry Francona suggested that Bonser looked like a pitcher who was healthy. In so doing, he also gave an indication of someone who can help the team.

“Looking at a guy who’€™s had the problems he’€™s had physically, then to look at his clean arm action, I think is phenomenal. It really jumps out at you,” said Francona. “That was really an encouraging inning, just to watch him go through his delivery and let the ball come out like that, we were really encouraged.

“If this works, this is a guy who knows what he’€™s doing and there’€™s some power to that fastball.”

–While Bonser’s shoulder is healthy, he has a blister on the index finger of his right hand. He suggests that he hasn’t been able to shake the problem for the last year, but that he has managed the issue thanks to the power of Super Glue (“Their stock’s up right now with how much I’€™m using on my finger,” said Bonser).

He has also found an expert who is more than willing to offer advice on treating an obstinate finger.

“As soon as [Josh Beckett] found out I had a finger problem, he was in my ear,” said Bonser. “I was like, great ‘€“ I know the method of bad fingers, I guess you could say.”

–Batting with the bases loaded in the fourth, Jose Iglesias jumped on a first-pitch fastball down the middle from right-hander Dave Laufer, lining a three-run double down the line and into the left-field corner. He later showed an inside-out stroke in lining out to second on an 86 mph fastball.

“He looked like he was ready to play. He wasn’€™t messing around,” said Francona. “He was obviously very excited to play. He came out in a hurry.”

Iglesias confirmed that the opportunity to enter a game was a momentous occasion for him.

“It’€™s like a dream, playing here and playing the first game in a Red Sox uniform,” Iglesias said through coach/translator Alex Ochoa. “I still have to work hard, and still have to things every day to get better. That’€™s what I’€™m coming here to do everyday.”

Ryan Kalish showed a strong first step in centerfield on a fly ball to semi-deep right-center off the bat of Golden Spikes candidate Mickey Wiswall. He also showed aggressive baserunning smarts by advancing from first to third on an infield single.

Junichi Tazawa narrowly averted harm, as he jumped when a liner went back up the middle, elevating just enough that the ball caught mostly his shoe rather than his toe. The right-hander — one of the Sox’ top depth options this year — averted harm and recorded a clean inning, striking out two.

Read More: blisters, Boof Bonser, jose iglesias, Josh Beckett

Postgame Notes: Red Sox 15, Northeastern 0

03.03.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox concluded a 15-0 win against Northeastern in the team’s first game of the exhibition season. The game was headlined by Casey Kelly’s first ever appearance against a college team, which resulted in a perfect inning of work that featured two strikeouts (both on changeups) and a first-pitch groundout on a fastball. For video of Kelly’s outing and his reaction to it, click here.

A few other notes from Red Sox land as the team prepares for its game against Boston College this evening:

–While Kelly was the main event of the Northeastern game, No. 34 also played a prominent role — for two different players who wore that uniform. David Ortiz turned on a fastball against left-hander Chris Bashara, blasting it over everything in right field. While the shot was aided by the wind, and one must take into account the fact that he was facing a college pitcher who may have been a bit awestruck, the swing was nonetheless impressive.

Yet the Sox seemed more excited when Ino Guerrero, a Friend of Manny who has stayed on because he is one of the finest batting practice pitchers in the game, had two at-bats. Guerrero was wearing No. 34 when he pinch-hit for Ortiz, entering the box from the right side. Guerrero grounded out in both of his at-bats, but proved a feisty hitter, fouling off several pitches.

So, which No. 34 was more impressive?

“The one on the right side. First time for me seeing Ino going to the plate,” said Victor Martinez. “It was pretty fun, but the other side [Ortiz] was pretty good. David put good swings on the ball, and had good at-bats. That’€™s a pretty good sign for this early in the camp.”

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, however, offered a different perspective.

“The ‘€™04 and ‘€™07 [World Series] are definitely at the top, but the Ino at-bats are right there,” said Francona. “I never have caught myself, rooting against our people. … But it’€™s one of the highlights, man. We’€™re playing Northeastern and every [Red Sox] player from the next game is on the rail watching, pulling for a pulled hamstring.”

Daisuke Matsuzaka had another successful day of long toss (up to 180 or 190 feet, by Francona’s estimate) followed by some work in the bullpen, throwing to a standing catcher. He will now throw a bullpen session on Friday, with the Sox confident that they’ve followed the right treatment course for the mid-upper back stain that crept up a couple of weeks ago.

“I think he’€™s done it the right way. There’€™s no way you can get out and throw as far as he has and be not only a little bit healthy, but that’€™s hard to do. It’€™s impressive, actually,” said Francona. “He’€™s ready to go. The timing, I think we did it right.’€

–Catcher Luis Exposito continues to show intriguing offensive skills. The hulking catcher went 2-for-3 with a double to right-center (aided by a jet stream to that part of the park) and four runs batted in.

“Expo is the one that’€™s going to be fun to watch. He’€™s so big and strong and he throws so well,” said Francona. “A couple of years from now, where does he turn out to be as a player? Anybody with that kind of size and arm strength, it’€™s going to be fun to watch the progression.”

(For more on Exposito and the Red Sox’ minor league catching prospects, click here.)

–Red Sox right-hander Gaby Hernandez, designated for assignment on Monday, was claimed off of waivers by the Royals. Hernandez spent three weeks in the Sox’ system after having been claimed off of waivers from the Mariners on Feb. 10. (Here’s a look at Hernandez.) Hernandez was designated to accommodate Casey Fien, who was claimed off of waivers from the Tigers on Monday. Fien arrived in Fort Myers this afternoon, and was unpacking his belongings in the clubhouse at City of Palms Park between games.

Read More: casey fien, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, gaby hernandez

Kelly: ‘I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling’

03.03.10 at 2:45 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Though his outing against Northeastern University lasted just one perfect inning, spanning 10 pitches, Red Sox pitcher Casey Kelly could not help but beam.

The setting was not to be confused with that of a major league game. Kelly, a 2008 first-round pick out of Sarasota High School, was pitching in the Sox’ exhibition opener against a college. Indeed, the right-hander — who would have been a college sophomore had he accepted a scholarship to play baseball and football at the University of Tennessee — joked that he “finally made that college debut.”

Even so, there was a significance to his first game activity of 2010. Kelly was able to take stock of the experienced big leaguers on the field behind him to feel as if he had achieved a meaningful milestone.

“I don’€™t think I’€™ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound. It was a good first outing. To have the crowd and all those people behind me playing defense was a tremendous honor,” said Kelly. “I was just excited to put that Red Sox uniform on, get to play on the same field as some of the big leaguers ‘€“ Bill Hall, Jacoby [Ellsbury], Jed Lowrie, Gil Velazquez. To throw to Victor Martinez, I think I was more nervous about throwing to him than to face hitters. I felt good out there, and I’€™m excited to get that first outing out of the way.”

Kelly threw 10 pitches, seven for strikes, punching out two Northeastern hitters (both on changeups) and getting another to ground out on a first pitch fastball. His fastball registered 90-92 mph, roughly the same velocity that he displayed throughout his first pro season.

There were moments of confusion, such as when catcher Martinez shook his head while calling pitches, an indication that he wanted the pitcher to deliver a “fake shake” of his own head. Kelly was unfamiliar with the process.

“I was kind of confused,” Kelly admitted, “but afterwards we laughed about it.”

Martinez was not laughing, however, about what he saw from Kelly on the mound. Instead, he marveled at the fact that a 20-year-old who has just a half-season of pro pitching experience (after splitting his time between the mound and shortstop last year) could look like such a natural on the mound.

“I just heard that [he’s just become a full-time pitcher]. That’€™s amazing. Shortstop, going to pitch? That’€™s amazing. I thought he signed as a pitcher. His delivery and all that, it was pretty good,” said Martinez. “The kind of stuff he’€™s got is amazing for the time he’€™s been pitching.

“He has some great stuff. He was throwing his fastball in and out, mixing it with his curveball, changeup. He only threw one inning, but he threw pretty good pitches, quality pitches.”

Though Kelly pitched at Busch Stadium in St. Louis last July in front of tens of thousands of fans for the All-Star Futures Game, he still admitted that there were nerves entering his Wednesday outing. And so, in pitching in a game for the first time since that July contest, Kelly could appreciate the fact that he was dealing with butterflies, and that he was able to gain enough composure to execute his pitches.

“For me, it was kind of getting that first outing out of the way, getting those jitters, kind of understanding how the routine is, going about throwing your pen, how the timing matches up with the game,” said Kelly. “You just kind of get the first one out of the way, take a deep breath and breathe, kind of look at how things went, how my stuff was for the game.

“I was very, very nervous going in. Once I got on the mound, the competition takes over and you want to do your best,” he added. “It felt like I had been doing it for a while now. It felt like I didn’€™t take an eight-month break. I felt good out there. It’€™s kind of like riding a bike: once you do it once, it came back pretty fast.”

Kelly said that he is next scheduled to pitch on Sunday in Sarasota against the Orioles. Though his time in big-league camp, in all likelihood, will not last too long beyond that, Kelly is nevertheless using his opportunity as a learning experience that, he hopes, will have practical application down the road.

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