FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where humble Spam improbably has popped up as a clubhouse snack, where blood was repeatedly wiped on the sparkling white uniform pants of a Red Sox reliever, and where a hobbled DH slipped into the batting cage for his first swings in more than a week.
* The game? Despite a six-run rally in the eighth inning, when the Red Sox hit eight singles, the last by Jackie Bradley Jr. to tie the score at 7, the Sox fell to the Baltimore Orioles, 8-7. Danny Valencia, who made a cameo appearance with Boston last year, hit a ball that cleared everything in left -- the Monster, plus the roof of the clubhouse behind it -- with two out in the top of the ninth to win it for Baltimore.
But the main course of this takeaway remains Spam, the canned meat first introduced by the Hormel Corporation in 1937 that morphed into a staple of breakfast, lunch and dinner for GIs fighting in World War II, became a featured entrée for baby-boomer families living on a tight budget, and has lived on in the Internet Age not only in its original form but as the name given to junk mail.
Where it doesn’t typically take root, however, is in a big-league clubhouse. But there it was, a case of Spam (the name coined for processed spiced ham) on a clubhouse table, in its unmistakeable blue, 12-ounce cans. Moreover, four of the cans were missing, evidence that their contents were being consumed by someone in a Sox uniform.
Jonny Gomes, would you touch the stuff?
“Hell no,’’ said Gomes, who nonetheless offered a clue as to who imported it into the Sox clubhouse, noting that he had teammates in Oakland last year who devoured it.
“Kurt Suzuki and Kila Ka’aihue,’’ Gomes said. “They love that stuff in Hawaii. They’ll take that over filet in Hawaii.’’
Do they grill it?
“However you want,’’ he said.
The list of suspects had shrunk dramatically. It was on to Gomes’ lockermate, Shane Victorino, red, white and blue Hawaiian.
Um, Shane, is it true you are responsible for the Spam?
“Yeah,’’ Victorino said, with something approaching a giggle. “Why?”
Because, he was told, his graying interrogator recalled the days when in his family, Spam went into the oven on a cookie sheet, baked to a crisp and served with a generous slathering of mustard, all the better to deflect any questions regarding just what kind of meat was being eaten.
“Spam is the No. 1 food,’’ Victorino said, aghast at the ignorance of his visitor. “Everybody eats Spam in Hawaii.’’
Do you fry it?
“Yeah, you fry it,’’ he said. “Put it with rice, make a Spam musubi. That’s what it’s called. Rice thing, with Spam on top.
“Go to McDonald’s and you can order Spam in the morning for breakfast. Tell you, Spam‘s the No. 1 food.’’
Since you were a little kid?
“Yeah. Still is. Everybody loves Spam back home.’’
But, but ... in a big-league clubhouse?
“I’ve brought it with me all the time,’’ he said. “Have our clubhouse guys cook it for me for breakfast.’’
Will anyone else in the clubhouse eat it?
“I don’t care. I’m going to eat it. I don’t care about them.’’
Victorino isn’t exaggerating the popularity of Spam in Hawaii. An Associated Press story reported in 2009 that Hawaiians eat more than six million cans of Spam a year, the nation's highest per capita consumption of the processed meat. And President Obama was spotted snacking on what sounded like musubi while playing golf in Hawaii.
And say this for the Spam diet: It’s been working lately for Victorino. Or something is. A triple off Pirates pitcher James McDonald in Bradenton on Monday. A double and a run scored on Tuesday off Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz. The spring average may still be just .143, but after his first two extra-base hits of March, there’s some flyin’ in this Hawaiian.
* There was a report that David Ortiz was spotted slipping a couple of cans of Spam into his clubhouse cubicle. That could not be confirmed. What was confirmed by manager John Farrell is that Ortiz, idled since an MRI was taken of both of his heels on March 9, took around 50 swings in the batting cage Tuesday morning.
"We'll see how he comes out of it tomorrow when he reports in," Farrell said.
It’s always good news, of course, to see Ortiz with a bat. But he doesn’t hit with his feet, and until the discomfort either disappears in his feet or becomes manageable, Ortiz won’t be back playing any time soon. He will open the regular season on the disabled list.
* While starter Ryan Dempster made it through five innings relatively unscathed -- he got touched up for three runs in the third, but otherwise took another step toward being ready for the season -- Sox reliever Daniel Bard was dealing with a small flesh wound of his own making.
Bard tore some skin off his right thumb with a fingernail while throwing a fastball, opening a cut that stubbornly refused to stop bleeding. Bard had little choice but to wipe off his hand off on his pants between pitches.
“It’s happened before,’’ he said. “I’d rather it didn’t happen. I don’t feel it. I just have to keep wiping it.’’
Farrell has seen it many times before. “When he releases his fastball, his index finger pronates so much that he clips the skin off the back of the right thumb,’’he said.
Bard said that what made the bleeding worse was that a scar had formed over a previous nick, and so when he opened that up, it made for a bigger mess.
His inning of work was something less than tidy, as he gave up three runs in the seventh in an inning that had a walk, a balk (that resulted from miscommunication on a planned pickoff), a hit batsman and a couple of hits, including a soft grounder through the right side. But Bard picked up after himself, an encouraging development for a guy who all too frequently came unraveled last season.
“I just wish I would have done it a little sooner,’’ Bard said, “but it's always a good sign when things maybe don't start out great but they get better and not worse. I think I did that today. It was just a little too late. I was off from the beginning.’’