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What Happened With the Red Sox: Tuesday

03.24.10 at 8:38 am ET
By

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At least for a night, the beast was back.

One should never overreact to spring training games. March line scores are often the stuff of divine comedy for pitchers for any number of reasons: pitchers are simply working on emphasizing different pitches; the decreased adrenaline of a game that represents a punch-in, punch-out scenario leads to less impressive performances; zephyrs gusting towards fences can transform any ball hit in the air into a tape-measure shot. And so on.

Even so, on Tuesday night, Clay Buchholz encountered a problem that he had managed to confront and overcome last season. He started pitching as if panicking when runners were on base, bouncing a full complement of pitches — even fastballs — in front of home plate.

It may have been no more than an isolated incident. Buchholz insisted after the game that he would work past pitching in a state of distraction with runners aboard.

Even so, it is worth noting how significant an issue it is, based on the following:

2008

BASES EMPTY: .259/.326/.394/.720
RUNNERS ON: .348/.441/.546/.987
MAN ON FIRST: .403/.486/.790/1.276

2009

BASES EMPTY: .254/.321/.418/.738
RUNNERS ON: .259/.331/.385/.716
MAN ON FIRST: .238/.324/.302/.626

Buchholz was roughly the same pitcher in 2008 and 2009 with the bases empty. The difference was that he figured out how to retire opposing hitters with men on base last season, resulting in a season of immense promise rather than disappointment.

For more, click here.

– Buchholz may not have been the only one panicking last night. Some heart rates went up in New England when Dustin Pedroia was removed from the Twins game prior to the bottom of the second inning. But the injury appears not to be severe, pending an exam on Wednesday morning, with Pedroia getting diagnosed with a mild left wrist sprain incurred on a diving stop of a grounder. For more, click here.

– Who knew? When Daniel Nava went deep against John Lackey in a minor league camp game on Monday, it represented an act of unexpected revenge by one of the most improbable prospects in the Sox’ minor league system.

“We have a history,” Nava said of Lackey.

Find out more by clicking here.

– Speaking of improbable prospects, Jorge Jimenez is back in Red Sox camp after getting returned by the Marlins. He had been moved to Florida as a Rule 5 draftee, but the Marlins decided that they couldn’t keep him on the big league roster for a full season. Still, the 25-year-old (a 15th-round pick in 2006) opened some eyes with his play, and he’s now in big league camp with Boston. For Jimenez’ thoughts on his time with Florida and his return to the Sox, click here.

– The Marlins gave lots of love to Jimenez’ defense at third base. Everyone else is giving lots of love to the Sox’ major league defense in 2010. According to the projections of John Dewan, one of the gurus of defensive statistical analysis, the Sox will enjoy an 87-run improvement in their defense in the coming year.

– For a time, it appeared that Casey Kotchman would be a contributor to that defensive upgrade. Instead, a trade with the Mariners sent his supple leather to Seattle. That’s well and good, considering that Dewan projected the Mariners to be the best defensive club in the majors. At the same time, the news that Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is considering Kotchman for the third spot in the batting order is somewhat startling. Certainly, when the Sox envisioned a roster that would include the first baseman, it was not with an idea of using him in the middle of the order in mind.

– One final thought on defense: had Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Rays after being drafted by them in 2002, he and Carl Crawford would have made for one of the fastest outfield tandems in big league history. Ellsbury considers that possibility here.

– The Sox relievers were in focus during the team’s exhibition game. While most were locked in on the fact that Manny Delcarmen‘s velocity remains in the low-90s, it was also worth noting that Jonathan Papelbon threw some dirty splitters. For more, click here.

– Finally, if there is such a thing as a Boof Watch, and there is such a class of people who have committed themselves to such a dark art, then they can get their requisite fix here. Boof believes he’ll be healthy enough to resume baseball activities in the near future, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. Also in the same link is a suggestion that Jed Lowrie is on a very different pace of progress in his recovery from mononucleosis, and that four players — most notably Michael Bowden — were shipped to the minors.

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