FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Takeaways from the Fort, where the day got off to a lumbering start with a tuba-solo national anthem and Jake Peavy was justifiably pleased enough with his spring training debut to toot his own horn.
The result: The Red Sox, playing with their probable Opening Day lineup, defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4-3, before a Hammond Stadium record crowd of 9,256 to improve their record to 6-8-1. The Red Sox opened the scoring in the third when a pickoff throw from Phil Hughes got away from Joe Mauer at first base, allowing Xander Bogaerts to saunter in. Two outs later, Shane Victorino rifled a shot off the glove of shortstop Danny Santana to drive in Will Middlebrooks. In the fifth, Daniel Nava reached on an error, Victorino bunted for a single and Dustin Pedroia doubled them in.
Jake’s journey: Peavy, who cut his left index finger with a fishing knife on March 1, gave up two hits and one run in three innings, walking two and striking out two.
Peavy got off to a rough start, surrendering a single to leadoff hitter Aaron Hicks and then a one-out, line-drive hit-and-run single to Joe Mauer that sent Hicks to third. But he struck out Josh Willingham and then retired Oswaldo Arcia on a lazy fly ball to right fielder Victorino.
And after that, he allowed just two baserunners -- on walks to Jason Kubel in the second and Willingham to lead off the fourth, after which he exited the game.
“I’ve been battling my finger issue,” Peavy said, “so early in camp, I hadn’t been able to use all my pitches as maybe the other guys had. So to get to my first start, get in a game and be able to use everything game speed and to have really the feel I had for my off-speed pitches, I was pleasantly surprised. Good first step. Got a long way to go, though.”
Peavy seemed particularly pleased with his split-finger fastball, which he had never used before coming to camp this spring. He had a pretty accomplished teacher -- closer Koji Uehara.
“He showed me how he holds it,” Peavy said. “Other than that, not much he can do. He can try to tell me some things he thinks about. It’s not going to be a Koji Uehara split-finger. Don’t get me wrong, by any means. But why would you not try to see if you can expand your game? It’s something I feel like we’re going to use a good bit and have as a weapon. If you can’t work on it here, where are you going to work on it? So we certainly did that today.”
When he got ahead in the count on Willingham in the fourth, he experimented with five splitters. He ended up walking Willingham, but wasn’t deterred.
“I was working on a little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s a lot I’ve got to work on, but I feel today was an encouraging first step -- a step in the right direction.”
Asked if Peavy’s split-finger is viable, manager John Farrell said, “It’s viable because he’s using it. To what effectiveness remains to be seen, but he’s such a good athlete. He can manipulate the baseball well. If it’s another weapon for him against some left-handers, I know it’s something he’ll use.”
The Red Sox are excited to see what Peavy can do in an entire season for them. Acquired before the non-waiver trade deadline last July, the 32-year-old Peavy pitched just 10 games in the regular season, going 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA -- well above his career 3.51 ERA.
“Jake Peavy’s been in the big leagues a long time,” Farrell said. “And yet, because he broke in at age 20, this is a guy who is still relatively young. You would anticipate a lot of pitching life left in him. Because of the number of innings pitched over long career, sure, there’s going to be adjustments required as they get deeper into their career. But this is a smart guy. He’s very athletic. We are going to need him to be a main contributor in the rotation.”
Peavy, asked if he has a big year left in him, said, “Absolutely. I expect to be as good as I’ve ever been. I expect a lot out of myself. I understand I go about things a tad bit differently, but it’s not that I feel like I’m to the point where I think some people may think I am. I certainly have some time in the big leagues. There’s some wear and tear in my body. I’m not blind to that fact.
“At the same time, I’m 32 years old, and I feel like I can be a big part of a championship club and win games on a consistent basis. That’s what it comes down to. Really, I’m not worried about anything else other than staying on the field and seeing how many games I can win for the Boston Red Sox.”
Peavy said he’s made up all the lost time and is not behind in any aspect.
“I’m going to stay away from knives,” he said, “and I’ll see you on Opening Day.”
Breakout: Pedroia went 2-for-3, including a liner up the middle in the third inning.
“He stayed behind the ball little bit better today,” Farrell said. “Wasn’t as jumpy. Used his hands much more freely. That’s more reminiscent of what we’re used to seeing with Dustin.”
Pedroia had been scuffling a bit at the plate -- with just two hits in 19 at-bats going into the game -- but Farrell said he has seen better bat speed than he saw last year, when Pedroia played with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
“You see the bat travel through the zone much more aggressively,” Farrell said. “There’s more freedom. Even in his BP, you see the ability to get to his pull side more readily. So yeah, you see the freedom in the swing pretty clear. He’s just trying to get his timing down.”
Farrell said the there is “nothing of concern” about Pedroia’s recovery from November surgery, saying there has been no delay in his progress and he’s “just getting back in the flow of things.”
Flyin’ Hawaiian: Victorino, who had played in just one game and had just one at-bat as he worked on core issues with his body, was 2-for-3 with an RBI. “He came through today fine,” Farrell said. “He’s going to get some at-bats tomorrow. He’s responding to the volume of work we’re gradually ramping up, so it’s good to have him back in the lineup.”
Not Miller time: Andrew Miller replaced Peavy in the fourth and managed to get just one out, surrendering a double, a single and a walk. He was charged with two runs. “Just erratic command again,” Farrell said. “He had been making really steady progress. The last three times out, you could see the timing and delivery becoming more consistent. Today, he yanked a couple of balls and just didn’t settle into the inning to execute consistent strikes.”
JBJ report: Jackie Bradley Jr., starting in center field while Grady Sizemore played in a minor league game against the Twins, went 0-for-3 and left runners on first and third in the third inning with a flyout to right field. Sizemore, meanwhile, started in center field, played five innings and went 1-for-2 with a walk.
X file: Bogaerts was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
The dot, dot, dots: Clay Buchholz starts for the Red Sox Friday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, backed up by Rubby De La Rosa, Tommy Layne, Jose Mijares, Rich Hill and Bryan Villareal. Jon Lester goes Saturday night against the Phillies at JetBlue Park ... Thursday’s game was Boston’s fourth with the use of instant replay. After a review, Mike Napoli’s sixth-inning shot was ruled a foul ball. Future replay games are Sunday at the Rays, Wednesday vs. the Pirates and March 13 vs. the Rays. ... Going into the game, the Red Sox led the Grapefruit League with 18 home runs -- one more than they had in their 35-game schedule last spring. Of their 53 runs, 24 had come via homers. ... The Red Sox are now 1-2 in the Chairman’s Cup series with the Twins.