|Mike Napoli receives a scare; Jon Lester marches toward Opening Day||03.11.13 at 4:47 pm ET|
JUPITER, Fla. – When Mike Napoli was hit on the inside of the left wrist by a Kevin Slowey fastball in the third inning of the Red Sox’ game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, one fan in attendance took particular notice.
“Oooh!” exclaimed Red Sox principal owner John Henry, taking one step forward in anticipation as Napoli was checked by the training staff.
A few minutes, all was well, with Napoli staying in the game and Henry calmly returning to his seat.
“I’m fine,” the first baseman said after leaving the game in what turned into an 8-7 Marlins win over the Red Sox. “Any time you hit around your hand area, it doesn’t take much for something to go wrong. At first it was a little numb and then I kind of got feeling back into it.”
“That’s the last thing you want, especially in the spring, hitting a guy near the hand,” Slowey said. “The pitch just came back. It’s frustrating. That’s certainly not what you want to do.”
Napoli not only remained in the game, but continued to impress while doing so.
The former catcher held is own at first base once again, while adding a walk in two plate appearances. Napoli is hitting .364 with a 1.400 OPS.
Perhaps most important was taking another step toward feeling like a full-time first baseman.
“Every day I come to the park and I don’t even think about catching,” he said. “I don’t think about it anymore. I’ve let it go.”
He added, “I think I’m comfortable now. Before I was iffy. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t really know what I was doing over there. It’s a lot better.”
- Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell insinuated Jon Lester would be his Opening Day starter, saying he wasn’t ready to name his pitcher for April 1, but judging by the set-up of the rotation it should be easy to figure out.
After his five-inning outing – in which he gave up one run on three hits while striking out four and not walking a batter – Lester wouldn’t reveal if plans had been set in motion for his third straight Opening Day start.
When told after his appearance that he had “sort of” been identified as the starter in the opener, Lester days, “Have I? Sort of? … Oh, well, I haven’t even figured it out so I’m glad he told you guys that. I don’t look that far ahead yet.”
Lester continued to perform like he was worthy of a start in the first regular season game, still giving off the image of an ace.
He still, however, sees room for improvement.
“The last two I don’t think have been as good as the first two as far as from pitch one to the end. I don’t know if this is because I’m throwing more pitches or what,” said Lester, who threw 54 pitches (38 strikes). “I feel like early on today, I was a little out of synch, even in the second but I was able to correct everything and get back to where I needed to be. But it’s coming, it’s a work in progress, it’s getting better as far as being a little more consistent, when I get into the game I have to be more mindful of the checkpoints we have in place and get back to those a little more quickly then I’m doing now.
“I feel pretty good, but I don’t want to have everything clicking right now, I kind of want to build it up that first start and hopefully kind of roll it over into there and get it going. I feel good, that’s the main thing, everything has been good physically, just some minor things in game that I need to improve on but I’ve been feeling pretty good.”
- The legend of Jackie Bradley Jr. continues.
The outfielder led off the game with a first-pitch home run, and finished the afternoon by going 3-for-4. It boosts his batting average to .519 (14-for-27) for the spring.
“As he’s shown all camp, right-handed pitching, left-handed pitching, his balance at the plate, he stays inside the ball,” Farrell said. “We’re seeing as we get deeper into camp pitchers are getting their timing. They’re repeating their delivery and making good pitches, and he’s handled many types of guys. He’s had a strong camp.
- Rubby De La Rosa had a rough outing, walking four while allowing five runs and two hits in just 2/3 innings.
It was the second rocky appearance by the Sox’ pitching prospect, who allowed three runs over two innings against Pittsburgh last Wednesday.
“I think going back to the last outing and today again, it looks like he’s overthrown,” Farrell said of De La Rosa. “His fastball command has been erratic. He’s always having to fight his way back into the count. Creating a little bit of a zone issue. Creating traffic with some bases on balls. But today it showed up a little bit more than the other day. Just overthrowing and not trusting his stuff as he should.”
- The Red Sox’ loss came after they had built a 7-1 lead after seven innings. The final blow came courtesy Miami’s Christian Yelich, who claimed a walk-off, two-run blast against Sox’ reliever Chris Carpenter.
A highlight for the Red Sox was Will Middlebrooks’ first home run of the spring, a two-run blast over the left field fence in the seventh inning.
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