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Grapefruit gleanings: Noteworthy stuff from Red Sox’ loss to Pirates

03.09.12 at 10:26 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — In relative terms, spring training remains in its infancy. Pitchers and hitters alike are still looking to work their ways into playing shape and so it’s difficult to place too much credence into what is seen in games.

Nonetheless, even this early stage of the spring offers some pieces of the puzzle, even if they don’t reveal the broader picture. Such was the case in the Red Sox‘ 7-4 loss to the Pirates at JetBlue Park.

A few takeaways:

Vicente Padilla, in the mix for the job of the Red Sox’ fifth starter, had a poor outing, allowing four runs on five hits (three doubles), all of which came in his second inning of work. While Padilla featured a fastball in the low-90s and changed speeds on his curveballs, his stuff was simply flat. He did throw 22 of his 29 pitches for strikes, but he didn’t miss many bats; he neither struck out nor walked any hitters.

“He wasn’€™t executing two-strike pitches,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “I think first time that [Kelly Shoppach] was catching him and I think there was a little quandary where to go when he got ahead of a couple of those hitters. I don’€™t know that, for my money, his armspeed was what it was last time, the last couple of times. It was pretty good. His location was decent. He was executing early. He just didn’€™t execute late.”

David Ortiz offered a promising sign in his second at-bat. He turned on an 88 mph fastball from left-hander Tony Watson and lined it into the visitor’s bullpen. Given how central his success against left-handers was to his huge 2011 season (indeed, it was the best season he’s ever had against southpaws), the fact that he went deep against a southpaw at this early stage of the spring has to be taken as a good sign.

In 2011, Ortiz hit .329 with a .423 OBP, .566 slugging mark and .989 OPS along with eight homers against lefties, and .298 with a .386 OBP, .548 slugging mark, .934 OPS and 21 homers against right-handers.

Clay Buchholz said that he was pleased with how he felt over the course of his 51-pitch, three-inning effort on Friday night. He focused on working his changeup into the mix, and threw some good ones, including an at-bat in which he doubled up on the pitch to punch out Brandon Boggs. He did leave some fastballs over the plate in allowing two runs on three hits, but overall, Buchholz was pleased with the opportunity to continue to build his pitch count.

— More important signs for the Sox against lefties: Darnell McDonald threatened to end modern telecommunications as we know it with his satellite-menacing blast into geosynchronous orbit of a fastball by Pirates lefty Doug Slaten. McDonald’s roster value derives in no small part from his ability to do damage against southpaws, something that he was unable to do in the first half of last year but then did with underappreciated effectiveness in the second half.

McDonald hit .260 with a .333 OBP, .471 slugging mark and .804 OPS against lefties last year. Five of his six homers were against southpaws.

McDonald also doubled in the ninth inning against a right-hander.

“I said, ‘You’€™re going to get two at-bats not one. Make the best of them.’ Geez, he sure did,” said Valentine. “Those were two loud sounds. It shouldn’€™t go unnoticed. He’€™s a guy that, at times, is going to come off the bench. He’€™s a guy who’€™s fighting for a job. Thus far in this spring, he’€™s made the best of his opportunities to play good baseball.”

— It’s early and almost all statistics at this point are irrelevant. That said, Cody Ross has hit the ground running. He is now 4-for-9 in Grapefruit League games, while his primary competition for right field, Ryan Sweeney, is 0-for-8. Ross also stole one base but was cut down on another attempted steal.

— It is easy to forget at times that there are spots to be won in the Red Sox bullpen. Michael Bowden evidently has not forgotten. The right-hander has looked sharp out of the chute, retiring all eight batters he’s faced (and all 14 if one includes the six-up, six-down, three-strikeout race through the Northeastern lineup).

— Former Red Sox infielder Yamaico Navarro had three electrifying swings and misses in punching out against reliever Will Inman. Navarro’s strikeout came with the abandon of one who believed that the only acceptable outcomes against his former team were either a home run or a strained oblique.

Navarro, now 24, was traded by the Sox to the Royals last July in the deal that netted the Sox Mike Aviles. Kansas City subsequently flipped Navarro to Pittsburgh.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Cody Ross, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz
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