BOSTON -- While former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester made a victorious debut with the Oakland A's, Red Sox newcomer Yoenis Cespedes wasn't so lucky. He played his first game since the two swapped teams at the trade deadline on Thursday, but the Sox lost to the New York Yankees, 6-4, at Fenway Park.
Cespedes batted cleanup and went 1-for-4, and contributed to an early Red Sox lead.
“As I came in I felt very comfortable. It was nice to see a lot of fans in the stands. I really liked it here,” Cespedes said with the help of an interpreter.
He singled in his first at-bat to lead off the bottom of the second inning, going down in the zone and punching a 3-2 offering from Yankees starter Shane Greene into left field.
“I felt very happy about that. It was nice to have my first at-bat as a Red Sox be a base hit,” he said. “I really didn’t feel the pressure. I knew it would come, whether it would be in the first at-bat or the next at-bat, or in a couple of days. The pressure wasn’t really a factor.”
Cespedes grounded out to third in the third inning and flied out to center field in the fifth before having a chance to do some damage in the bottom of the seventh.
The Red Sox were trailing by two runs when he stepped into the batter’s box with two outs and one runner on. Yankees reliever Dellin Betances unleashed a 101-mph fastball in a 0-2 count, and Cespedes popped it up to third base to end the inning and the threat.
“I’ve only faced one pitcher like that to throw above 100 miles per hour and that was [Cincinnati Reds’] Aroldis Chapman. I faced Betances once in New York earlier in the year, but he wasn’t at that kind of velocity. He really only throws two pitches and I was hunting the fastball, but I just didn’t get that one.”
Even though the Red Sox are banking on Cespedes playing mostly right field, Boston’s newcomer made his debut in left field. Red Sox manager John Farrell explained during his pregame scrum with the media that the team wanted Cespedes to get at least one day of work in right field before playing a game. During his two-and-a-half seasons in the big leagues, Cespedes has played left field and center field for the Athletics, but never right field. He did, however, play the position in Cuba.
“Our goal is to get him to be our everyday right fielder,” Farrell said. “Out of fairness to Yoenis, we need to get some early work in, particularly in Fenway here.”
Even though he appeared a bit uneasy on a few balls hit to left field, Cespedes said there were no issues playing in front of the Monster.
“To me, I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier, given that the fence is so short and I know anything that’s going over my head I’m going to have to turn around and play it off the wall. So far I’ve been comfortable out there.
“I haven’t really played much right field, but in my opinion, good outfielders should pride themselves on being able to play all three positions and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
Another relative newcomer for the Red Sox, starter Allen Webster, got roughed up in his second big league start of the season for Boston. The 24-year-old right-hander had command issues and lasted only 2 2/3 innings. He allowed four runs on two hits, with six walks and one strikeout. He tossed 71 pitches, 39 strikes.
In the top of the third inning, Webster walked five batters, including four in a row, as the Yankees batted around the order and scored four runs when Farrell finally removed his starter and replaced him with Burke Badenhop.
Afterward, Websters told the media: "Today I felt really good and in control of the game in the first two innings, then really struggled with my release point in the third and never got back to finding it."
Farrell added: “It was clear that he lost command of the strike zone. While there’s plenty of stuff in terms of fastball action [and] swing and miss to his changeup, the ability to make an adjustment from either pitch to pitch or hitter to hitter was elusive.”
In his two starts this season for the Red Sox, Webster has issued 11 walks in eight innings. Overall, in 10 big league starts, he has 29 walks and 35 earned runs in 38 1/3 innings of work.
With Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavey all gone via trade, Buchholz is the senior member of Boston’s pitching staff. He realizes this is an opportunity for him to step up.
"We had a chance to have a brief conversation about that yesterday,” Farrell said. “That is not to say that Clay is going to come in looking different, acting different, or taking a completely different approach. He benefited by being around those veteran pitchers previously -- the guys we talked about the past few days. He now has more experience in this ballpark and this division than any other. He should look upon himself as a resource for others to gain from the things he’s experienced in between the lines.”