|Jon Lester impresses, Rubby De La Rosa dazzles, Mike Napoli returns as Red Sox yield Pirates no booty||03.01.13 at 9:57 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester continued to look sharp in early spring training action, though he was, in some ways, upstaged by another electrifying outing from right-hander Rubby De La Rosa in the Red Sox’ 5-2 win over the Pirates in Grapefruit League play.
Lester threw 46 pitches, 28 for strikes, while tossing three shutout innings. He permitted one hit and one walk while striking out two, and worked in his curveball, changeup and cutter at different times while working both up and down in the strike zone with his fastball. In five innings this spring, the left-hander has yet to give up a run while punching out three and allowing just the two baserunners.
“I was able to do the same things we’ve talked about early on — staying tall and driving the ball downhill,” said Lester. “I was able to do that tonight and mix in a few other pitches — one, maybe two changeups, a couple of curveballs, a couple of cutters. It was nice to break them all out and get good results. It’s always nice, when you’re working on things, to get good results from it and keep building off that.”
While Lester was sharp, the first pitcher to follow him into the game was spectacular, as Rubby De La Rosa was overpowering in two shutout innings in which he allowed one hit (a double) and struck out two. The soon-to-be-24-year-old (De La Rosa’s birthday is on Monday) combined a 94-96 mph fastball with two secondary pitches (curveball and changeup) that proved capable of eliciting swings and misses. Indeed, he appeared to be focused on his secondary pitches, but the effect of his full mix was overpowering against a number of big leaguers (including Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Brandon Inge, Felix Pie and Clint Barmes).
Knuckleballer Stephen Wright added two more shutout innings before getting touched for two runs on three walks and two singles in his third inning of work. With the bases loaded, he was removed in favor of Alex Wilson, who caught a line drive up the middle off the bat of former Sox prospect Oscar Tejeda and then fired to first to complete an inning-ending double-play.
While the performances of the pitchers headlined the game, the most significant development of the contest was the first game of the spring for Mike Napoli, who was tested in virtually every way imaginable, and succeeded at every turn.
A couple of additional Sox notes:
-- Stephen Drew went 1-for-3 with a double down the right field line, and had good at-bats throughout the night. He’s 1-for-10 this spring, but he’s shown a similar sweet swing to the one possessed by his brother in early action. He’s also looked smooth in the field, showing no ill effects of the broken ankle that kept him out for about a year in 2011-12.
– Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-2 with a walk.
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