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What’s new with the Red Sox: Saturday

03.07.10 at 3:16 am ET
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John Lackey retired all six Twins batters he faced in his first game of the spring. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nothing fancy, just the facts.

Or at least mostly the facts, with no more than a bit of fancy.

John Lackey, in his first exhibition game in a Red Sox uniform, was certainly a just-the-facts-and-no-fancy type of pitcher. He motored through an efficient 20-pitch outing, throwing 12 strikes and retiring all six batters whom he faced. He used primary four- and two-seam fastballs, mixing in a couple of curveballs. He also worked tremendously quickly, taking little time between pitches, a fact that was helped by the fact that he was able to work exclusively out of the windup without having to deal with any baserunners.

“Solid start. Commanded the baseball, had the ball down in the zone, mixed in his secondary pitch. I thought he was real good,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who was acting as the manager of the Sox’ split squad team against the Twins. “I think defensively when you’re playing behind a pitcher like that, that’s going to dictate the pace, it’s positive for your defense. You look to see it and most guys like to play behind pitchers like that.”

For Lackey’s thoughts on the outing, click here.

–Two pitchers who are likely to give the Sox starting major-league depth in Pawtucket submitted sharp outings.

Michael Bowden, who dropped roughly 10 pounds this offseason in an effort to become more flexible and also made mechanical alterations to achieve a more fluid delivery, threw two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.

In Port Charlotte, Felix Doubront allowed one walk and struck out three in two hitless innings against the Rays. The left-hander features a low-90s fastball and inconsistent off-speed stuff, with a changeup that can get swings and misses and a raw curveball. He spent all of 2009 in Double-A, going 8-6 with a 3.35 ERA for Portland.

–Left-handed reliever Brian Shouse struck out three batters (and allowed a double) in his shutout inning of work on Saturday. The 41-year-old is in the mix for one of the final bullpen spots available on the Sox. He signed a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp with the Sox in January. His contract calls for him to make $800,000 if he is added to the major league roster.

While he admitted that there were moments this offseason when he wondered whether he should have accepted salary arbitration when the Tampa Bay Rays offered it (something that would have led to a non-guaranteed salary of at least $1.24 million), he felt like he was unwanted when the Rays declined his option and then never made him an offer. Thus, he was willing to pass on a potentially more lucrative deal — that would have also come with the risk of getting cut in camp while entitled to only a fraction of his salary — to take his shot on making the Sox roster.

“I just want to get to the playoffs and taste that. I got to experience that a little bit in Milwaukee. Hopefully, I can do it again in Boston,” said Shouse. “They said they wanted to have a couple lefties in the ‘pen f it worked out. The chance to go to the playoffs, I felt like it as a good situation. We’ll see. Time will tell.”

Shouse had a 4.50 ERA in 45 games with Tampa Bay in 2009, and owns a 3.72 career mark in 467 contests.

–Starter Daisuke Matsuzaka told Japanese reporters that after Sunday’s scheduled bullpen session (his second of the spring, and first at full intensity), he will meet with the coaching staff to schedule one more bullpen on either Tuesday or Wednesday. A third bullpen session would seem a likely prelude to throwing live batting practice to Sox hitters, as all of the other starters threw three bullpens and two live batting practice sessions before Grapefruit League games commenced.

Tug Hulett, who was supposed to get a look as a utility infielder but who has been unable to play the field due to shoulder soreness, hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning. That resulted in an unexpected chant of “Tug … Tug … Tug” when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning.

“I thank my Mom for giving me a chantable name,” said Hulett.

–Outfielder Zach Daeges impressed the Sox in spring training a year ago before injuring his ankle on a hard slide that ultimately wiped out virtually all of his 2009 campaign. Following surgery late last year, however, he was expected to be ready for spring training. By January, he was following a normal workout schedule and a return to baseball activities.

But Daeges suffered a setback early in spring training. He strained his right lat (likely while his body was adjusting to swinging for the first time in roughly nine months), and has not yet been able to get in games this spring while waiting for the injury to heal.

He said that he wasn’t sure of a timetable for his return, though he guessed that something in the range of a week or two might make sense. He characterized the injury as frustrating, but said that he is trying to be mindful that his ultimate goal is to be healthy for the regular season.

“My body hasn’t been treating me the best,” said Daeges. “I wanted to get in the spring and prove myself again, show them I could still play. … Hopefully [a return will come] soon, but the number one goal is to be healthy in April.”

– Random Jonathan Papelbon stat: in his first four full seasons, Papelbon has induced just five double plays, the fewest in the majors among pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched during that span. (For the list of pitchers for whom the twin killing has been as rare as Halley’s Comet, click here.)

–Hale praised Jacoby Ellsbury’s defense, noting that his plus range in left field could make a significant defensive impact. the Team can consider shading center fielder Mike Cameron and right fielder J.D. Drew towards the right field line because of Ellsbury’s superior ability to track down balls in left center.

“[Ellsbury] played all three [outfield spots] coming up,” said Hale. “I thought he responded very well [when he played left]. I think his instincts, just as an athlete, will play big. That’s the way he played left field and right field, when he went back and forth. He really played on his instincts. He’s going to go catch the baseball.”

–Hale said that Cameron has emerged as a leader among the outfielders, and that the group was diligent in working together to improve communication during the team’s time at the minor league complex.

–Democracy — and charitable contributions — will dictate the facial hair of Kevin Youkilis on Opening Day.

Read More: brian shouse, Daisuke Matsuzaka, felix doubront, Jacoby Ellsbury Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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