FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On a chilly-for-the-Fort morning with temperatures in the low 50s, there were no big-league Boston Red Sox players in the clubhouse. There were no media members in the press box. There were no big-league coaches in sight, either. JetBlue Park sat empty other than a trio of groundskeepers. Fewer than 100 fans filtered about the back fields of the Fenway South complex.
The Red Sox are enjoying their first of two scheduled off days of spring training. The second off day is on March 26. The complex’s back fields, however, appeared quite busy. While the big leaguers catch up on rest and sleep, the minor leaguers are in for their first full day of action with their first “real” spring training games against other teams.
Boston’s Double-A Portland Sea Dogs are playing the New Britain Rock Cats of the Minnesota Twins organization at 1 p.m. on Lou Gorman Field No. 5 at Fenway South. Boston’s Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox are playing the Rochester Red Wings, also of the Twins organization, at 1 p.m. on Eddie Popowski Field No. 4.
Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves, fresh off a brawl while playing for Team Mexico against Canada in the World Baseball Classic, will the only big league Boston player in action today. Aceves is slated to pitch in one of those two minor league games.
In the early going of the morning, Red Sox Hall of Fame third baseman Frank Malzone, 83, sat outside the minor league clubhouse wearing a Red Sox jacket that did not quite keep him warm enough for his liking.
Malzone, a guest instructor, has been watching and advising third baseman and other infielders throughout the organization.
“I look at the infielders,” Malzone said. “I don’t move around too much, because my legs won’t let me. I talk to them about preparation.”
That’s the phase of the game he said he would like to see Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks improve upon.
“He could be better,” Malzone said. “But he’s smart enough to where he will be. Right now, he’s still trying to play fancy -- and third base is not a fancy position.
“You know who is the best in the game right now? The Rays’ guy. (Evan) Longoria.”
Malzone knows a thing or two about playing third base. He won three Gold Glove Awards at the position, including the first ever awarded, in 1957.
Malzone, who played 11 seasons for the Red Sox from 1955-65, also was an eight-time All-Star. His career overlapped with those of Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
“I always had a good left fielder,” Malzone said.
Malzone said he’s proud to be in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. For many years, he had hoped to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., to no avail.
“It did bother me at first, but after a while, I realized I didn’t have a chance,” said Malzone, who played in the minors from 1948-54 and parts of ’55 and ‘56. “I played in the minor leagues a long while.”
Malzone does have some bragging rights over Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, a Hall of Famer who earned 16 Gold Gloves playing third base.
“You’ve got 16 Gold Gloves,” Malzone once told Robinson. “But you’ll never get the one I’ve got. The first one.”
With that, Malzone departed on a golf cart. The big leaguers had the day off, but Malzone and the minor leaguers had a full day ahead of them.