March 2010

CATCHING UP WITH OUR OLD CATCHER

     Baseball is a wonderful world with an amazingly small, close-knit fraternity.  Tuesday at the minor league complex, the Durham Bulls, Triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, came to town to face the PawSox.  Pawtucket had the daunting task of facing the flame-throwing lefthander, David Price.  Price, the former number one overall pick of the Rays, jammed it down the PawSox’ collective throats.  Price threw 7 shutout innings at the PawSox, en route to a 5-1, Durham win.  Price allowed just 1 hit, with a walk and 8 strikeouts.  Elliot Johnson accounted for most of the offense with a pair of home runs, a solo shot in the first off Kason Gabbard and a three run job in the eighth, courtesy of Ramon Ramirez.  Also at the game, at the Rays’ behest, was catcher Kelly Shoppach, who just 8 days ago hit a pair of home runs against Boston at City of Palms Park.  Shoppach, you may recall, is a former International League All Star, from his time with the PawSox.  After a couple of seasons in the Cleveland organization, Shoppach is now a Ray.  After he got over his initial shock that I write a blog, we discussed a variety of topics.

How does it feel now that you’re in Tampa Bay?

Having a job is always nice.  You take one whenever you can get it.  It’s been a real good experience for me.  In the clubhouse, the guys have been great.  They’ve welcomed me.  Kind of a breath of fresh air to get out here and be with a team that’s contending.  It’s definitely exciting for me to be here.

Did you feel a sense of irony last week when you and Victor Martinez were the opposing catchers, a year after you were teammates in Cleveland?

Definitely interesting.  We were great friends, teammates for four years.  There’s a lot of history between us.  We talked about a lot of things from over the years.  Last years’ World Series Game 1 starters, Cliff (Lee) and C.C. (Sabathia) (both former Indians) and here we are on different teams.  We all have different paths and it’s good to keep your friends, some lifelong friends that you make in this game that you’ll always love to see.

Can you afford to “wish” that you never left the Red Sox organization?

No, I can’t afford to do that.  As great as Pawtucket was, if I hadn’t left, I might have spent another three years in the minor leagues.  Moving to Cleveland was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I was able to get to the Big Leagues and learn even more and become a player that was able to provide something to a Major League team.  Getting out of Boston, as weird as it may sound, was great for me. 

You had the chance to catch another former Sox prospect at the end of last year.  How will Justin Masterson fare in Cleveland?

I think he can do a lot of things.  He’s a big, strong, tall kid.  He can do a number of things and I’m sure he’ll be able to do whatever they ask.

I know you met your wife in Fort Myers.  Does it bring back good memories coming here?

When we played the Red Sox, I left the stadium and drove down to my house, which I still have here.  Drove by her old work and waved.  We still joke about that pretty often.  Definitely a lot of memories here in Fort Myers.  I lived here for seven years.  Today when I came to town I visited Racquel (Ferreira- Director of Minor League Operations.)  It’s kind of strange being here on the “back fields” again, but you never forget where you come from. 

DOESN’T SOUND GOOD FOR TAZAWA

     Before Mondays’ game against the Rays in Fort Myers, pitching coach John Farrell addressed a concerned group of both American and Japanese media, regarding the elbow of pitching prospect Junichi Tazawa.  According to Farrell, Tazawa has gone to Birmingham, Alabama to be examined by world renowned surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.  Farrell said the righthander had been experiencing tightness in his arm, dating back to the end of 2009.  It had been OK until recent days.  Farrell said the visit to Dr. Andrews was a “precaution”. 

     My guess, educated or not, is that this has to be pretty serious to bring the surgeon into the picture.  The Sox remain mum on the situation other than Farrells’ brief statement.  Tazawas’ injury could deal a blow to the PawSox rotation.  Tazawa, along with Adam Mills, Michael Bowden, Fabio Castro and maybe Randor Bierd, were expected to anchor the Pawtucket rotation.  I’m sure more will come forth in the next few days.

     Had some time to spend on the field during infield practice and batting practice Monday.  The PawSox game was rained out, but the weather had cleared sufficiently so Tampa and Boston could play.  It was like “old home” week.  PawSox alums like Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester had a warm greeting for their old announcer.  I am pleased and amazed at how big and healthy and strong Lester looks.  Papelbon, although with the PawSox for a very short time, always has time to catch up.  Kevin Youkilis and I discussed his appearance on my favorite TV show this past winter, Man vs. Food.  Youk happened to be at the Eagle Deli in Boston when host Adam Richman was shooting the program.  2008 MVP, Dustin Pedroia greeted me in his usual fashion. (Read his biography, “Born to Play” to find out what it is.)  I thanked him for the autographed copy of his book he sent me and the warm inscription on the inside cover.  He’s a beauty and hasn’t changed a bit. I love him.  Staff members like Rob Leary, Rich Sauveur, former PawSox trainer Greg Barajas and new trainer, John Jochim all chatted and joked around.  Everyone seems to be in mid-seson form.  Saw Dusty Brown, Josh Reddick and Fernando Cabrera, some of the mainstays of the ’09 Pawtucket club.  Brown had just been optioned to Triple A.  He seemed to be taking it in stride.  We spoke at length with Clay Buchholz about a variety of topics, including his new wife Lindsey, the impending birth of their first child and their relationship with billionaire, Donald Trump.  Buch said the ESPN commercial he did with Yankee Nick Swisher and actor Adam Scott, a 30 second job, took 6 and a half hours to shoot.  Scott played Will Ferrells’ “real” brother in the movie “Step Brothers”.  He also appeared in the Leonardo DiCaprio flick, “The Aviator.”  Also caught wind of some Dunkin’ Donuts commercials shot down here, featuring Papelbon and Pedroia.  I won’t let the cat out of the bag, but they sound amusing.  Had a nice visit with my former broadcast partner, Andy Freed, in town with the Rays.  He and wife Amy, welcomed twins to the family back in January.  Big sister Sara is in love with her sisters.  It’s fun catching up with old friends.

     Happy belated 85th birthday to PawSox team owner, Ben Mondor.  Ben celebrated the milestone on the 26th of March.

SNOWBIRD HEAVEN

     While the weather hasn’t been great in Fort Myers, it is better than New England this time of year.  Thousands of fans flock to Florida to watch their beloved Sox prepare for the season.  You cannot walk more than 50 feet without seeing someone wearing a Red Sox hat, jersey or t-shirt.  City of Palms Park has sold out  a hundred and one times in a row.  The power of The Nation.

     On Saturday, I drove across town to the Twins facility to watch the PawSox play against Rochester.  It was a 4-1 loss, as Michael Bowden labored through his innings.  Jeff Natale knocked in the only Pawtucket run with a fielders choice.

     As I watched the game, I noticed some familiar faces sitting in the aluminum bleachers, under an awning on the first base side.  It was PawSox season ticket holders, Rich and Yvette Dumaine, of Warren, RI.  The retired couple has had seats in section 8 at McCoy for the last 6 or 7 years (row F, seats 1 and 2). Rich, a retired CEO of the Notre Dame Community Credit Union, says the pair retires to their home in Arcadia, Florida every October and stays until April. “It’s like being back home.  You can’t get Boston tickets, so we come to all the PawSox games.  It’s about a 45 minute ride from Arcadia to Fort Myers.  It’s worth it.  We started going to games in Pawtucket.  First a few, then 30 or 40 a year.  Finally, we got season tickets.”  Yvettte was an organist at St. Michaels Church in Swansea, Mass. for over 40 years, and has found similar work down south.  According to Rich, she wasn’t always such a big baseball fan.  “At first, I had to talk her into going to the games, now even if I can’t go, she’ll go without me.  I created a monster, making Yvette a baseball fan.”

     The Dumaines have seen a lot of games at McCoy and they have their favorites. “Youkilis, Pedroia, Ellsbury.  We’ve seen a lot of good ones.  It’s fun when you can see the players develop.”  Rich predicts that another young outfielder will be the next big thing at Fenway.  “Josh Reddick is going to be a good one.”  They also say they are ready for the start of the Torey Lovullo “era” although they’ll miss the lovable Ron Johnson.  “RJ’s a nice guy.  He deserves his promotion to Boston.  We’re happy for him”.

     What started out as a visit to see their daughter Suzanne 5 years ago, has turned into a new lifestyle for Rich and Yvette.  “We’ve made a lot of nice friends down here over the last 5 years.”  They busy themselves with golf and books, family and friends, and of course- PawSox Baseball.   

  

FANTASTIC FINISH AT THE FORT

     I love baseball.  I love slugfests.  I love pitchers’ duels.  I love the game.  All aspects of it fascinate me.  That being said, for eight innings on Friday, I hated the game between the Sox and Jays.  The so-called new and improved Red Sox defense looked sloppy and not even average.  Before the ninth, Boston managed just two base hits, by the past and possibly the future of the Sox, Jason Varitek and Josh Reddick.  Jon Lester did pitch pretty well although he was hurt by errors, giving up 2 unearned runs in six innings. Lester fanned 5 while walking two.  It looked like a lost cause until the bottom of the ninth at City of Palms Park.  It’s funny, though, how your impression of a game can change in a heartbeat.

     When Boston rallied, it had a decidedly Pawtucket “flavor” to it.  Catcher Dusty Brown, with wife Jordan and son Jude cheering in the stands, knocked in the game tying run and with Jeff Natale at third base (pinch runner), Tug Hulett hit an opposite field flare to score Nat and secure the 3-2, come from behind victory.  The 100th consecutive sellout at the Spring training venue, sent the partisan Sox crowd into the humidity of the late afternoon, a bit weary, but satisfied.

     Some of the days’ other news.  The Sox signed lefthander Scott Schoeneweis.  Schoeneweis, cousin of R.I. native and Senior adviser for the Red Sox, Jeremy Kapstein, won a World Series Ring with the Angels in 2002.  More recently, His wife died of a drug overdose last May, leaving him to raise 4 children alone.  Schoeneweis was released by the Brewers Thursday.  He worked out of the Arizona bullpen in 2009.  Boston also acquired infielder Kevin Frandsen from the Giants for cash or a player to be named later.  Frandsen hit .140 in 50 at bats with San Francisco in ’09.  Mike Lowell left the game in the first inning after fouling a ball off his knee.  Prior to the game, the savvy fans at the park gave Lowell the loudest ovation during introductions.  Lowell sustained a contusion on the inside of his left knee.  Josh Beckett was named Opening Day starter for the Sox on April 4th against New York.  Dustin Pedroia was out of the lineup for the second straight game, nursing a sore wrist.  Pedey joked that he wasn’t sitting out because of the injury.  “I got benched.  I told Tito he looked like Corrado Soprano” (Dominic Chianese from the HBO hit series The Sopranos) 

 

THAT’S MORE LIKE IT

     It was a pretty good day in the Sunshine State for te Red Sox.  The Boston club topped the Florida Marlins 6-4 and the PawSox clobbered Durham 9-3.  For Pawtucket, it was a nice departure after not scoring a single run in the previous two ballgames.  Bubba Bell hammered a couple of home runs to lead the attack.  Nick Harper had a big day as well, going 4-4.  Lefthander Kason Gabbard allowed three runs in three innings of work.  T.J. Large, Robert Manuel, Ramon A. Ramirez and Scott Patterson shut down the Bulls for the duration.

     Boston jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind Tim Wakefield, before the Marlins made a game of it.  Wake surrendered 3 runs before Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed a single tally in his first game action of the Spring.  Wakes’ good outing further solidifies the theory that Dice-K will begin the season either at extended Spring Training or in Pawtucket.  Either way, it seems that Matsuzaka won’t be in the Sox rotation to begin the year.  Wakefield has a 3.66 ERA in 19.2 innings of work.  Also, the Red Sox have three days off in the first ten days of the season.

     Spotted a couple of Boston stars eating this week.  Jacoby Ellsbury was enjoying lunch at Panera Bread on Tuesday and David Ortiz and family dined at Shoeless Joes’ Wednesday afternoon…Best wishes to Red Sox Hall of Famer, Frank Malzone.  “Malzy” took a spill here in Fort Myers and had to head up north to get his shoulder taken care of.  Malzone is a regular in PawSox owner Ben Mondors’ box at McCoy…Had a nice chat with one of my favorite guys, Tommy Harper.  The former Red Sox star will be the featured speaker at the Annual PawSox welcome home luncheon, sponsored by the Northern R.I. Chamber of Commerce at Kirkbrae Country Club.  The luncheon will also feature the 2010 PawSox and new manager, Torey Lovullo.  It takes place on April 7th, one day before Opening Day. 

HOW ABOUT A RUN ON RUNS

     As nice as it is here in Fort Myers, as optimistic as Red Sox fans are and as excited as we all are about the upcoming season, it would be nice if the PawSox could score some runs.  The club was shut out for the second straight game on Wednesday, this time falling to the Norfolk Tides, 3-0.  It’s still early and many of those we expect to see at McCoy Stadium this summer are still playing with the Major League club.  Nonetheless…

     On hand at the minor league complex, a beautiful facility with green grass fields as far as the eye can see, was Director of Player Development for the Red Sox, Mike Hazen.  Hazen, along with General Manager Theo Epstein and his assistant g.m., Ben Cherington, surveyed the players at the various fields, consulting with the coaches and instructors.  Hazen, a native of Abington Massachusetts and an extremely cooperative fellow thinks that so far, things are going smoothly this spring. “It’s gone very well so far.  Knock on wood, we’ve avoided injuries which is the main thing.  We’re just trying to put teams together like the big league club.  We’re trying to get guys in shape, ready to go.  At this point, the Pawtucket team is shaping up nicely.  We still don’t have a great feel for the complete makeup of the club because  we’re waiting for the fallback when the Major League team makes its’ cuts.”

     Hazen says that while Spring Training is extremely important, it’s not always “make or break” for every player.  Guys don’t usually play themselves up or down a level by exceeding expectations or conversely, not living up to them, either. “We try not to evaluate everything on the basis of what they’ve done just at Spring Training, but also what they’ve done in the past.  They’re getting their work in and doing really well.”

     While prospects are the life-blood of the organization, free agent veterans are a necessity to fill minor league rosters and provide depth to the Major League team in the event of injury.  In 2008, the PawSox rode free agents like Jonathan Van Every and Joe Thurston to a playoff berth.  In 2009, guys like Paul MacAnulty could not recapture the magic of the previous season as the PawSox finished at 21 games under the .500 plateau.  Hazen is hoping this season is more similar to ’08 than ’09. “Hopefully we did a better job of acquiring depth.  last year, the guys didn’t get the job done.  Hopefully, we’ve got a better crop of guys here, that’ll have a better impact, a bigger impact on the Pawtucket club.”

     Hazen says that when you are in the Red Sox organization and  the Big Club makes its’ cuts and assigns guys to minor league camp, it isn’t usually a surprise to Triple A veterans like Michael Bowden. “A lot of that is expected when you’re in this organization.  They know it’s about going out and getting ready for the season and being prepared to be the first one called up when the situation arises”. 

LIKE KISSING YOUR SISTER

     Former Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty coined the phrase. “A tie is like kissing your sister.”  I actually knew his sister, Jean Daugherty.  A lovely woman known as “The Play Lady”.  She was from Syracuse and worked on local TV for years.  Anyway, now that you know the origin of the phrase, I will tell you that it’s true.  Baseball games do not end in a tie.  Ever.  Unless you’re at Spring Training and you have run out of pitchers.  That’s exactly what happened in Fort Myers on Tuesday.  The PawSox and Rochester Red Wings played to a scoreless tie.  On the bright side, Felix Doubront, Dustin Richardson and Bryson Cox combined to shut down the Triple A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.  The bad news was that the PawSox, as they currently exist, couldn’t muster even a single run.  It looked as though the PawSox had scored in the seventh as Yamaico Navarro scored from second base on a single by Luis Exposito.  Navarro slid home safely, only to be ruled out on an appeal to third base.  The umpire ruled that Navarro failed to touch the bag when rounding third.  Inning over.  Still scoreless.

     The big club was playing across town on Tuesday night, facing the Twins at Lee County.  Some of the buzz here at the Fort is the new contract signed by superstar catcher Joe Mauer of Minnesota.  His contract is worth a reported 184 million dollars over the life of the deal.  That has tongues wagging, especially since Victor Martinez, not really in Mauers’ stratosphere is up for a new deal.  Martinez is probably the second or third best catcher in the American League, but again, no Mauer.  “V-Mart” has maintained that the cotract is in the hands of the Red Sox.

     The Red Sox have sent four players to the minors today.  Four men who should be a big part of the PawSox in 2010.  First baseman Aaron Bates, and pitchers Michael Bowden, Ramon A. Ramirez and Jorge Sosa have all been optioned down.  Bowden will anchor the PawSox staff.  His ERA of 3.13 was among the best in the I.L. in 2010.  Bubba Bell assured me today that the team of 2009 that finished 21 games under .500 is but a faint and distant memory. “We are going to be a lot of fun to watch”. said Bubba.  “We’ve got a lot of great guys.  It should be a good team on and off the field.”  While we can guess the makeup of the team, we won’t know the final roster for another week or so.

     As I mentioned, the Sox faced the Twins Tuesday night.  Dustin Pedroia left the game after injuring his wrist while diving for a ball.  The 2008 AL MVP was going after a ball hit by Denard Span.  Initially, the belief is that it is a sprain, but he will get x-rays on Wednesday.

    

STRANGE DAY INDEED

     It was a strange day in Fort Myers on Monday.  It rained all night Sunday into Monday and as a result, the PawSox game against Rochester was cancelled.  Funny thing is, the weather was beautiful by game time (1:00 p.m.)  So with the PawSox playing an intrasquad game, I tried to watch the Red Sox play Tampa Bay at City of Palms Park.  Note the use of the word “tried”.  It was unwatchable.  A couple of guys who could conceivably be part of the 2010 PawSox really struggled on Monday.  Boof Bonser was the starter and he just did not have it.  Bonser barely made it through two innings, surrendering 5 runs on 6 hits, walking a pair and giving up home runs to Evan Longoria and former Pawtucket All Star, Kelly Shoppach.  “Shop” hit a pair of home runs in the game, a three run shot in the second inning that made it 4-0, then a solo homer in the fourth.  Another performance to forget was turned in by Junichi Tazawa.  The righty got lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in his time on the mound.  In the top of the fifth, Longoria pummeled the first pitch thrown by Tazawa over the wall.  Before the frame was over, he’d allowed three home runs.  Two hitters later, Ben Zobrist went deep and two hitters after Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez continued the laser show.  I left.  I had seen enough.  Give the Sox credit, they rallied, but still came up short, 11-9.

     Being a broadcaster in the International League, I get to see a lot of players long before they’re on the radar screen of the average fan.  Some things I thought of as I suffered through the game Monday.  Bonser facing his former Rochester teammate, Jason Bartlett…Kelly Shoppach catching for the Rays and Victor Martinez catching for the Sox.  A year ago, they were  both on the Cleveland roster…How awful must it feel when you’re a fringe guy and you don’t capitalize on your opportunities.  Bonser is a good example.  His ERA this spring  is over 11.00 and that won’t cut it in Boston…Heard that former PawSox hitting machine Chris Carter is having a great spring with the Mets, hitting over .400 so far.  Not really surprised, CC can fall out of bed and get a couple of hits.  Remember what a good spring he had in 2009, making the Red Sox out of Spring training…Had an interesting conversation with roving hitting instructor, Victor Rodriguez.  Vic told me he threw batting practice to Ryan Westmoreland  the day he suffered his seizure which was diagnosed as a cavernous malformation in his brain.  Rodriguez said he marveled as the 19 year old outfielder hit line drives all over the ballpark. “He looked so fit and strong.  He was hitting bombs all over the place.  After we finished, he told me ‘Vic, I feel good.  Thanks.”  Rodriguez said he came to work the next day and was floored to hear what happened to the Red Sox top prospect.  “I couldn’t believe it.”  Folks in Fort Myers are breathing a little easier these days, thinking that Ryan has passed the crisis.  Now it’s time to recover and get well.  Baseball will come a little later. 

     The PawSox are home Tuesday for a game against Rochester.  The game starts at 1:00 p.m. 

SUNDAY IN FORT MYERS

     Down at the Red Sox minor league complex in Fort Myers on Sunday morning at 11:00, Red Sox righty Daisuke Matsuzaka took the mound for two innings against a team of minor leaguers from the Boston organization.  It was the first time this spring that Dice-K faced live hitters in a game situation.  Noticeably more fit, Matsuzaka breezed through his outing, throwing 32 pitches, 18 for strikes.  He did not allow a hit.  He walked one.  The walk came in his first inning of work.  He got the next batter to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.  In the second inning, he induced three ground ball outs.  The Sox had him throw ten more pitches to get near his pre-determined number of 30.  He then threw several more pitches to catcher Luis Exposito in the bullpen. 

     Among those watching were Theo Epstein and many of the Boston front office.  Ben Cherington, Mike Hazen and a host of others, some in uniform, some not eyed Matsuzaka with great interest.  A throng of media, including roughly 50 Japanese reporters and photographers furiously scribbled down notes and clicked their cameras as his outing continued.  Daisuke looked like he was mixing his pitches well against the over-matched teenagers on a cloudy windy Sunday morning.

     Lots of Red Sox “royalty” on hand in their respective golf carts, including Frank Malzone, Luis Tiant and Tommy Harper.  Former PawSox outfielder George Lombard, now a coach in the system, was all smiles as he talked about his new job.  David Howard, the former major league infielder and friend of PGA Tour professional, Brad Faxon, is getting his feet wet in his new position, field coordinator for the entire minor leagues.  Howard takes over for the affable Rob Leary, who, like Ron Johnson, has been promoted to the Boston staff.

     After Matsuzaka finished, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said he was pleased- “The intensity level was clearly improved over his last bullpen session four days ago, so another positive step in the right direction for Daisuke.”  Farrell added that he was happy with the mechanics he witnessed.  “It’s more about getting some time on the mound, some repititions.  He was much cleaner today.  I think even in this setting, there was some adrenaline.  He talked about being a little quick in his tempo of his delivery, but these are all the finer adjustments…getting back on the mound in a semi-live situation.  I thought he threw the ball very good today.”   Farrell said that Dice-K threw all his pitches, with his fastball clocked between 88-91 miles per hour.  He will throw a bullpen session in two days, and although Farrell didn’t come right out and say it, don’t be surprised if Matsuzaka is the opening day starter for the PawSox at McCoy on April 8th.  He said that the Sox try to add an inning to a starter each time they come out in Spring, ideally being able to throw 95 pitches by the time the regular season starts.  From that point forward, they’d be on a five day rotation.  According to Farrell, nothing is set yet.  “It’s still early and there are a lot of decisions to be made.  Not just for Dice-K, but for all our pitchers…He’s doing everything he can and making steps to factor in to that at some point.”  Farrell seemed happy with the results.  reading between the lines, I won’t be shocked if Matsuzaka breaks camp and heads up route 95 north to Pawtucket.

DAY ONE AT THE FORT

     Spring Training has been going on for about a month now, but for me, it was day one in Fort Myers.  Things got off to a good start as I had dinner with my old friend, Ron Johnson.  The former PawSox manager was even more effusive than usual as he gushed about his new job. “Hydes, it is unbelievable!  As much as I’ve always loved going to the yard, this is ten times better.”  RJ continued- “The hours are long at Spring Training, I can’t believe how sore I am at the end of the day.”  Johnson, a minor league manager for the last 18 years says it takes some getting used to, being an “Indian” as opposed to the “Chief”, now that he’s on the staff of Terry Francona.  “You know me.  I love to talk to everyone.  As the manager, I could do that.  Here, everyone has their own duties and responsibilities, and you don’t want to mess it up.”  RJ has had no trouble as the “new kid”.  “Everyone has been great. “D” (Demarlo Hale), “Bogey” (Tim Bogar) “Tito”…they’ve all been very helpful in my transition.”  RJ had a real treat the other day as his son started a game against the Red Sox for the Astros.  Manager Brad Mills, a former Boston coach used Chris Johnson, a highly touted Houston prospect at third base, and in a very kind gesture, Francona shifted RJ from first to third so he could chat with his son throughout the game.  “It was surreal.  Such a range of emotions.  Nerves, pride, happiness.  I didn’t know who to root for.  It was great. Best moment of my baseball life.  Tito is very thoughtful to allow that.”

     I, too had a sense of pride Saturday as public address announcer Carl Beane introduced the first and third base coaches between the top and bottom of the first inning.  Ther voice of Fenway bellowed, “Red Sox coaches- at first base, Ron Johnson. At third, Tim Bogar.”   RJ waddled out to his post, and it was a very uneventful day, as far as he was concerned.  The Sox, powered by Kevin Youkilis’ two run home run, blanked the Orioles 6-0.  Dustin Pedroia had two hits including a double.  Tim Wakefield looked very good, tossing 5 shutout innings, allowing two hits.  Manny Delcarmen pitched the sixth followed by Brian Shouse, Fernando Cabrera and Joe Nelson, each adding a “smoke ring”.  Nelson fanned Adam Donachie to end the game.  For Boston, Marco Scutaro smacked a solo home in the seventh.  Mark Wagner relieved Victor Martinez behind the plate.  “Wags” belted a double, igniting a three run rally in the eighth.  Tug Hulett and Peter Hissey doubled as well.  Hisseys’ provided a couple of late insurance runs.   7913 were on hand, the 96th straight sellout at City of Palms Park. 

     Down the road, further south on Edison Ave. on a gorgeous sunny Saturday, The PawSox beat the Durham Bulls at the Red Sox minor league complex, 8-1.  Randor Bierd, Bryson Cox, Dustin Richardson and Robert Coello, split pitching duties.  Catcher Jon Still and outfielder Ryan Kalish had home runs for Pawtucket.

     On Sunday, Boston plays a split squad game in Dunedin against Toronto and at home against Houston.  PawSox infielder Jeff Natale, already with one home run this spring is scheduled to make the trip to Dunedin to play with the big club.

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