<
>

10 (not-so) Quick Hits: Long day in F-L-A

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Ten reasonably quick hits on what went down Monday for the Red Sox in Florida:

1. Home run derby: The Tampa Bay Rays hit seven balls out of the yard in building an 11-1 lead over the Red Sox in a game Tampa won 11-9 at City of Palms Park. Former Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach and Evan Longoria hit two home runs apiece, with Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Hank Blalock all hitting one.

“Those boys were real comfortable at the plate,’’ said Boof Bonser, who gave up a three-run homer to Shoppach in the second and a bases-empty shot to Longoria in the third. “They need to get uncomfortable real quick.’’

This, too, from Boof: “Shoot, I threw some good pitches and they whacked ‘em.’’

Junichi Tazawa gave up home runs to Zobrist and Rodriguez, whose sixth of the spring leads all campers in both Florida and Arizona, while Scott Atchison had Shoppach hit one off the scoreboard against him. Blalock hit a full-count pitch off former Ray Joe Nelson for the seventh of the afternoon. Only Rodriguez got an assist from the wind. Everything else was crushed.

2. Meanwhile, over in Jupiter: With a lineup that had just two players certain to be on the 25-man roster, Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida, the Sox roughed up former Boston pitcher Brad Penny for 10 hits and seven runs in five innings, but a seven-run eighth doomed them against the Cardinals, as the Sox lost 13-8. Hall played short and committed two errors, no doubt reinforcing the Sox's belief that they need to find a shortstop to back up Marco Scutaro. And they can’t do that unless they free up the roster spot currently held by Mike Lowell.

3. … and in minor-league camp: John Lackey cruised through five innings in an intrasquad game, allowing a run on three hits while striking out six and issuing no walks. Lackey threw 68 pitches, and is approaching that time in camp where he has broken down each of the last two seasons. He’s hoping to avoid that this season and has had no health issues to date. The run was the first he has allowed this spring and came on a home run by Portland outfielder Daniel Nava.

“His version was everything went pretty well,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “It sounded like it. It sounded like he threw a bunch of strikes (45). Sounds like he had a pretty good day.’’

4. Boof dinged?: The pitcher never mentioned it in his postgame media session, and didn’t seem to be favoring anything on the hill, but Francona said Bonser told him that his right groin “was grabbing him a little.’’

“We’ll get him looked at tomorrow,’’ said Francona, making no predictions on when Bonser will throw again. “We’ll have to see how he reacts to that.’’

Bonser, who is out of options, has to this point shown the Sox enough to take a pretty solid grip on the long-reliever spot in the bullpen. A couple of bad innings aren't apt to change that, with Francona implying as much Monday.

“Trying to move forward, and project guys, where they fit on your ballclub, how they fit, that’s the bigger challenge for us, is not to ever penalize anybody for two bad innings. That’s not the idea of spring training.’’

Francona said both Bonser’s delivery and arm action are good. “For a guy who hasn’t pitched for a year and what he went through [reconstructive shoulder surgery], real clean arm action,’’ the manager said.

Bonser said his velocity was fine -- he’s been in the low 90s -- but the results went south at a bad time.

“Very frustrating,’’ he said. “Trying to come in for that last spot [in the bullpen] and do something like that is not fun at all. They say one step forward, I definitely took two steps back.’’

5. Embree advances: Alan Embree threw another bullpen session Monday and will pitch an inning in a minor-league game Wednesday, Francona said, leapfrogging the normal spring-training track that dictates a couple of sessions of live batting practice before pitching in a game. Maybe it’s not so far-fetched that Embree will be ready for the April 4 opener.

Embree’s base salary calls for him to be paid $500,000, but with incentives he can make around $1.1 million. That’s a little less than the other contract recently negotiated by his agent, Ron Shapiro, who just got Joe Mauer signed to an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Twins.

6. Dog days of … March?: Francona said the club is dragging a bit.

“I think we’re going through a three-, four-day stretch here where everybody feels heavy,’’ Francona said. “Heavy-legged, we’ve been split up, we’re on buses. Hopefully we’ll kick it into gear a little bit the next couple of days, get a little more energy, play a little bit cleaner baseball.’’

Against Tampa, Francona used what looks to be his Opening Day lineup, which managed a run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings against Rays ace James Shields, who has been tabbed by manager Joe Maddon to start his third straight opener, a franchise record. Shields had one strikeout, getting David Ortiz swinging on what looked like a full-count changeup.

A gaggle of Sox minor leaguers made a game of it, scoring eight runs in the last three innings and putting the tying runs on base in the ninth before Derrik Gibson tapped out to the mound to end it.

“At least they perked the day up,’’ Francona said. “I think a lot of young kids had fun.’’

7. This never happened to a certain Michigan realtor: Catcher Mark Wagner, who on Saturday was optioned to Triple-A, continued an outstanding spring with two triples, raising his average to .467. The realtor in question was Doug Mirabelli, who was masterful at catching Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball but was something less than fleet on the basepaths. In 1,026 at-bats with the Sox over seven seasons, Mirabelli had no triples. He did have two in 1999 for the Giants, the only triples of his career.

8. Dinner tab: Bonser, asked if his former Twins teammate Mauer might take him to dinner to celebrate his new deal, said, “He can take the whole darn city of Fort Myers to dinner.’’

Well, there are roughly 600,000 folks in the Fort Myers metropolitan area. Mauer could buy every man, woman and child the Outback Special ($16.95) at the steakhouse of the same name, for $10.17 million. Throw in another $2 million as the tip, and he’d still have $172 million left.

9. .406 club: With singles in his only two at-bats Monday in Jupiter, new Sox outfielder Hermida is batting .406, the average immortalized by Ted Williams. Funny thing is, the guy ostensibly competing for the job as fourth outfielder, Josh Reddick, is batting .417, and his average dropped as he went 1 for 4 in Jupiter. Reddick is almost certain to play every day in Pawtucket.

10. Lend a hand: In the aftermath of the thunderstorm-caused fiasco the previous afternoon, when the grounds crew was unable to cover the field with the tarp despite being urged on by the crowd with chants of “Pull, pull,” Francona was asked if he’d ever popped out of the dugout to help in such a situation.

Turns out he has. He was managing Class A South Bend in a game in Davenport, Iowa, when a storm struck with his team leading and the home team’s grounds crew overmatched. “They were going to call the bar across the street for help,’’ Francona said.