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Red Sox postgame notes: In Sox debut, Andrew Bailey ‘switches gears’

03.12.12 at 6:42 pm ET
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Andrew Bailey made his first game appearance for the Red Sox on Monday, allowing a run in an inning. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ordinarily, a leadoff double wouldn’t be an ideal way for a pitcher to begin an appearance, even if it was an exhibition game on the Grapefruit League schedule. But for Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey, who made his Sox debut in the top of the sixth inning, the Omar Infante double high off the left-field wall was the perfect starter’s gun.

“Immediately, the mind switches into the closer’s mentality where you never want to blow a game. It doesn’t matter for me if it’s in spring training,” said Bailey. “For me, it was kind of cool to have your first outing being that type of a ballgame and for me, kind of act like it was the regular season. Obviously, I had some things to work on. That’s why we start in spring training. But for me, you never want to give up runs no matter when you pitch.”

Bailey did not fulfill that mission. He gave up singles to the next two hitters, allowing Infante to score. But after a wild pitch put runners on second and third with no outs and the Sox ahead by one run,3-2,, Bailey got out of the jam with no further damage, getting a Chris Coghlan infield pop-up, a comebacker in which Bailey properly executed a rundown to catch Austin Kearns off of third and a Matt Dominguez groundout.

Bailey was held back a bit this spring due to a minor right lat strain incurred in a vertical jump test. However, Bailey pronounced after the outing that he felt great, joking of the ice packs on his shoulder and elbow, “This is just all for show.”

Bailey also said that there was no reason to think that he’ll have any issues being ready for Opening Day. Indeed, his excitement for the job of being the Red Sox closer is palpable.

Bailey has been asked on numerous occasions whether he feels uncomfortable following Jonathan Papelbon into ninth-inning responsibilities. Asked once again on Monday, Bailey’s response remained consistent.

“I don’t feel the pressure,” said Bailey. “I know what [Papelbon] did here, obviously the all-time save leader here and for me, it’s a new opportunity in my career. Pressure is what you put on yourself. In my eyes, it’s an opportunity in my career to further my career and pitch for the greatest franchise in baseball.”

He treated his first game as a Red Sox — even in the usually sleepy setting of the spring — with concerted intensity, and Bailey insists that he will not relent in his competitiveness.

“I’ll never take a day off of being intense, 100 percent,” said Bailey. “You have a small window to play this game. If you go out there and not give it your all or be as intense as you can, I wouldn’t sleep at night. So for me, going out there every night knowing I did my best and I put everything I had into it, that’s what I’m going to give you.”

OTHER NOTES

Josh Beckett struggled to command his pitches in the first inning, hitting a pair of batters, walking another and allowing a single. But he limited the damage to one run, and ended up retiring the final nine batters he faced en route to a four-inning, one-hit, one-run effort in which he walked two and struck out three.

Beckett elicited swings and misses with his fastball, changeup and curve (indeed, he got Marlins outfielder Austin Kearns to swing and miss at all three offerings in one at-bat), and felt particularly good about his breaking ball, a pitch that he had not yet emphasized this spring.

“I thought I had a pretty good feel for the curve,” said Beckett. “A lot of times we talk about arm strength and stuff like that — you actually have to have more arm strength to spin a breaking ball than you do to throw a fastball, because you’re powering the outside of the ball. That’s why a lot of times when you come to spring training, you don’t have a real good feel for your curveball. Building up arm strength is really key with spinning the ball.”

Beckett threw 57 pitches, and he looked strong through the end of his outing.

“The last two pitches he threw, he even let the tank out a little with some velocity and some location,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “That was good.”

– Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected from Monday’s Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox, evidently for telling the first base umpire that a fair/foul call was not yet in his jurisdiction because the ball remained in front of the bag.

“It was lesson time,” said Valentine. “Ozzie was telling the first base umpire it wasn’t his call, because the ball was in front of the bag, and he didn’t want to hear that.”

As Guillen exited the field through the tunnel next to the Red Sox dugout, Valentine waved. Asked if he said anything to his Miami counterpart, Valentine recalled saying, “See ya.”

Guillen did not see or hear Valentine’s remarks, but asked how he would have reacted, Guillen made his feelings clear.

“I don’t see it. I would have told him to go and [expletive] himself, too. That’s the way Ozzie Guillen is,” Guillen told reporters before he broke into a cackle.

Ryan Sweeney was replaced in right field for the top of the third inning with what the Red Sox called a left quad strain.

“They said his thighs were stiff before the game and we had him do all the work out and he thought he was fine and then before the game started, he said he was a little stiff and I gave him the one at-bat and tried to get him out of there,” said Valentine. “I think he has a little strain in his left thigh.”

– The Red Sox won, 5-3, when utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco (a non-roster invitee) crushed a two-run homer over the higher-than-Fenway left-field wall. While Ciriaco has seen most of his playing time against lesser pitchers as a late-game substitute, he has nonetheless been impressive in nearly every game, and he is leading the Sox with a .545 average and 1.455 OPS thanks to a 6-for-11 romp with a homer, double and three steals.

“I’m very impressed,” said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “You know, he’s stolen bases when he’s been asked to steal, he’s made the plays defensively. He’s bunted very well for basehits. He had a hit and run. He hits a home run to win the game. There’s nothing else that he could do to impress people.”

Ciriaco, 26, has appeared in 31 big league games over the last two seasons with the Pirates, hitting .333 with a .350 OBP, .513 slugging mark and .863 OPS. The Sox signed him as a minor league free agent this winter, and Ciriaco — a career .270/.297/.352/.649 hitter in seven minor league seasons — is pleased with his early performance.

“I’m just working and happy about the results I’m having right now,” said Ciriaco. “But you know, it’s not finished yet. I just have to work and keep doing what I’m doing right now.”

Mike Aviles went 2-for-3 with a double and triple, and is now hitting .368 with a .579 slugging mark in 19 plate appearances. He has yet to walk.

Cody Ross made a twisting catch of a fly ball over his head on the warning track in front of the left field wall.

“He made the exact same play in right field with the ball over his right shoulder. He turned exactly the same way, had the same bead on it. But he had a lot of room to make the play,” said Valentine, referencing a play last week. “Here, he hit the warning track. He knew where he was and he made the play. Believe it or not, [first base and outfield coach Alex Ochoa] worked on those plays today in practice. Ball hit over you, head turned, go and get it. Practice lets you know you’ve been practicing it.”

While Carl Crawford is out, Valentine said that in games where the Sox feature Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Sweeney in the outfield, Ross will be in left while Sweeney will be in right.

Ross Ohlendorf punched in with his first two innings of the spring. The right-hander allowed one hit, struck out one and walked one, throwing his fastball, changeup and slider.

“I definitely had a lot of adrenaline,” said Ohlendorf, who was held behind other pitchers both because he has encountered shoulder issues in the past two years and because he was dealing with back discomfort at the start of camp. “First time coming out of the bullpen in four years too probably added to it, but also first time you pitch. I get some adrenaline every time. Today was more than a lot of times.”

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