FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where a baseball game is scheduled to be played later today. A “B” game, to be sure, which means no major league umpires, but a game nonetheless, with the Red Sox playing the Twins and taking their first look at Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves against opposing batters as they try to win spots in the starting rotation.
The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Hammond Stadium.
Here’s the lineup that was posted in the clubhouse:
1. Jose Iglesias, SS
2. Che-Hsuan Lin, RF
3. Ryan Lavarnway, C
4. Josh Kroeger, DH
5. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
6. Lars Anderson, 1B
7. Jason Repko, CF
8. Oscar Tejada, 2B
9. Alex Hassan, LF
SP -- Alfredo Aceves, RHP
Meanwhile, we’re here to tell you about another game, the one Dustin Pedroia is tracking on a piece of paper taped above his locker.
There are two names on the paper: “Iggy” and “Me.” There are four slash marks under “Me,” none under “Iggy.”
Pedroia is tracking who misses the fewest balls during camp, and of course he chose rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose glovework has been praised far and wide, as the guy he’s competing against. So far, it has been no contest. Pedroia claims victory on each of the last four days.
“I try not to miss one ball,’’ Pedroia said when asked what he sets out to do each day in infield practice. “I try to make sure I’m protecting the ball.
"That’s my goal every day. I don’t want a ball to hit the ground.
“ I’ve won four days in a row. I’ve had one ball hit the ground in four days. That’s a lot of reps. We count everything -- make a bad throw, miss it, whatever.’’
There is a famous clip, shown on ESPN last season when then-network analyst Bobby Valentine first called attention to it, of Pedroia hopping at his position at second base before every pitch. The move is reminiscent of a tennis player on the baseline before a shot.
“Yeah, that’s where I got it from,’’ Pedroia said. “I used to play tennis as a kid.’’
It’s all about anticipating the play.
“When you play the middle of the field,’’ he said, “that’s where a lot of action is You’ve got to be ready, you have to be in a good position. The corners, that’s a reaction play. At third and first, they’re either going to catch it or it’s by them. We got to make sure we’re always on our toes and expecting the ball.
“Some balls are hit real hard, where we just react. But for the most part, we have to have a plan to go get it.’’
By most measures, including simple observation on a daily basis, Pedroia may have had his best season ever defensively in 2011. He made a career-high seven errors, four fielding, three on throws, but scored higher than ever on some of the advanced defensive metrics, including Ultimate Zone Rating, in which he was a plus-19, almost double his previous best score.
Can a second baseman improve his range from one season to the next?
“Guys work on their range,’’ he said. “That comes with getting stronger, getting faster, stuff like that. You work on that in the off season and then it correlates to the field. You see a lot of guys not getting to balls one year, and then the next year they’re getting them because they got quicker, they got faster.
“I’ve always had good range. I’m just a shorter guy and don’t have long steps, so people don’t notice that, you know what I mean? Yeah, I guess I’ve gotten better. I work on it Absolutely. Cutting out extra movement helps, so when the ball is hit you’re not tangling your feet up, you’re getting a direct line to the ball, things like that.
“It’s in my training. You practice running from side to side. You’ve got to make sure you move the right way. It all translates.’’
Pedroia says he tries to get as many repetitions he can in drills. “We’re not getting as many this year, because we’re doing stuff with the hitters,’’ he said, alluding to Bobby Valentine’s practice of having hitters hit the ground balls via soft toss. “But I’ll ask a coach to hit more."
And he’ll keep score. For himself. And for Iggy.