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.