|Five Things We Learned on Thursday in the Fort||03.20.09 at 6:07 am ET|
As spring training days go, Thursday was a fairly full one. The Red Sox clubhouse has reclaimed nearly all of the players who traveled far and wide to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Only Daisuke Matsuzaka (slated to start Saturday in a semi-final game) remains in the tournament, and so yesterday offered an opportunity for players to reacquaint with their spring training surroundings and to examine their wounds. And so, the post-WBC scene takes front and center in today’s edition of Five Things:
1) Yes, Kevin Youkilis was kidding when he suggested that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was responsible for a sprained left ankle and Achilles tendonitis that forced the Red Sox first baseman out of the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. No, Youkilis was not kidding when he said that he does not blame the WBC for the injury (even if he suggested that neither the several days spent on Toronto’s artificial turf during the first round of the tournament nor the decision to dog-pile with his manic teammates after a walk-off win against Team Puerto Rico did him any favors). More important at this point than the fault, however, was the prognosis. Youkilis could be back in games by early next week, and the Sox do not deem the injury serious.
2) Dustin Pedroia, whose lower abdominal strain forced him out of the WBC last Saturday, has been pain-free since returning to Fort Myers, and took batting practice without incident on Thursday. Pedroia is now scheduled to take two at-bats in today’s exhibition game, have a day off, and then bat three times on Sunday. Of course, there are those around the Red Sox — including David Ortiz — who insist that Pedroia spent plenty of time on the field during the St. Patrick’s Day game on Tuesday.
3) Tim Wakefield said that he has complete confidence in George Kottaras as his catcher this year. The two worked well together in a minor-league game on Thursday. Sox manager Terry Francona, however, said that it’s premature to anoint Kottaras the backup catcher until camp has played out. With Josh Bard released on Wednesday, Dusty Brown and Kottaras are technically competing for the role, though with the team expressing its faith in Kottaras’ work behind the plate, the fact that Brown has minor-league options and Kottaras does not and Kottaras, as a left-handed hitter, is a more natural platoon complement to Jason Varitek, one can see why G.M. Theo Epstein wasn’t shy about declaring the job Kottaras’ to lose.
4) Jed Lowrie is destroying the ball. His homer, double and single on Thursday continued a torrid spring in which he is showing no lingering effects of the wrist injury of a year ago. Lowrie acknowledged that his ability to stay on top of the ball and swing through it from the left side is completely different than it was a year ago. He took the fact that he hit a double to left-center and a homer to right as a good sign, an indication that he is squaring the ball wherever it’s being thrown. Lowrie also said that, since Julio Lugo had to leave camp for surgery for a meniscus tear in his right knee, he is spending more time doing defensive work at shortstop, while scaling back (though not abandoning) his work at third base. “I think it behooves me to do that,” said Lowrie, a quote that is used here because it would be a shame not to celebrate a good behooving.
5) Brad Penny remains on track to pitch in a major-league exhibition game on Monday. As Rob Bradford detailed, he feels better now than he did at any time last year.
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