FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where if you listened closely, you could still hear the echoes of the crowd that took over JetBlue Park on Tuesday night to offer raucous support of Team Puerto Rico, cheering, singing and breaking out the vuvuzelas and drums to create a party atmosphere. This in a place where the “I Love Yooouuuks” guy, now unemployed, ranked as Mr. Excitement.
* All that noise, however, was muted by another encouraging outing from John Lackey, who will be the first to tell you he still has a lot of hurdles to cross before being declared fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, but certainly appears headed in the right direction. Lackey threw three scoreless innings and showed good life on all of his pitches in Boston’s 4-3 win over Team PR.
* David Ortiz has literally jumped hurdles in his efforts to return from his strained Achilles tendon, and it’s still to be determined when he’ll play. In talking to him the other day I mentioned that when his friend Albert Pujols was asked by Angels beat writers how many ABs he needed to be ready for the start of the season, Pujols said: “None.”
“As long as my body feels good, I'm ready to go,’’ Pujols added. “I've got 8,000 at-bats in the big leagues. I think I've got plenty."
Pujols, who is recovering from surgery on his right knee, played in his first game Tuesday, about a week earlier than expected, and went 0 for 3.
“It’s good to have confidence like that,’’ Ortiz said. “Albert is the most confident player I’ve ever seen. When he says that he means, ‘I’m mentally ready.’ That’s good. You don’t put too much in your head.
“It’s like me. I’m hitting [taking batting practice], but I’m not thinking about how many at-bats I need to be ready. I know I haven’t played for a while. Your mind plays with you. You start feeling stress. ‘I need to play, I need to do this, I need to do that.’ Then it gets worse.’’
* The police report that claimed Red Sox prospect Drake Britton handed over his debit card when a cop asked him to produce his driver's license reminded press box attendant Brian Mullen of the Red Sox rookie years ago in Winter Haven who, when asked to produce an ID at the bank where he was cashing a check, pulled out his minor league baseball card.
* News that Mark Teixeira has a strained right wrist and is expected to miss at least two weeks, with GM Brian Cashman saying he was very worried, makes you wonder if this will be the year the Yanks finally do wind up in the breakdown lane. A-Rod is out for months, Derek Jeter is coming back from an ankle injury, Curtis Granderson fractured his arm, Phil Hughes has bulging discs in his back, and now Teixeira. Starting to look like Boston, circa 2012. Cashman, of course, fits right in with his fractured fibula and dislocated ankle, the result of his parachute jump Monday in Miami.
I’ve been telling people I still consider the Yankees favorites in the AL East this season, but at this rate I may have to revise my opinion.
* Pitcher Ryan Dempster played for the Double-A Sea Dogs when they were still affiliated with the Marlins, but retains fond memories of Portland.
“I loved Portland,’’ he said. “We stayed in the Back Bay Towers, I think they were called. It was gorgeous, a great place to play in the minors. I loved it.’’
* And for all the good-looking shortstops the Sox have had in big-league camp -- Stephen Drew, Jose Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts, Deven Marrero -- there are two more head-turners in minor-league camp. One is Tzu-Wei Lin, a 17-year-old from Taiwan who signed with the Sox for $2.05 million. The Yankees tried to sign him the year before, but Lin succumbed to threats from his country’s baseball association that he’d never play or coach in Taiwan if he signed before graduating from high school. Baseball America says Lin is the fastest player in the Sox system. The other is Jose Vinicio, a 19-year-old Dominican who was signed in 2009 just before Iglesias and is ranked just behind Iglesias for his glove.