7:05. Is it ridiculous to listen, keep score of, and blog about a Spring Training game? Absolutely not. I'm more than ready for my fix of Jon Rish and Joe Castiglione. Happy 2011!
7:09: Darnell McDonald and Jed Lowrie batting 1-2. While 2010 was a disappointment, these two were two of the pleasant surprises, with McDonald becoming a super fourth outfielder and Jed Lowrie coming back from his various maladies to be a fantastic offensively the last couple months, delivering a .287/.381/.526. My guess is that, while Scutaro will be the nominal starter, Lowrie will find his way into the lineup four or five times a week.
7:17: Sounds like a nice play by Jose Iglesias. How long until he's forcing his way into the big league shortstop conversation? Unless Lowrie is a complete disaster defensively, I'm going to guess not until next spring training at the earliest. Iglesias is only 21, and while his glove is supposedly major league ready, .285/.315/.357 at AA Portland is still a long way from the majors. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sox start him out at AA once again this year.
7:24: Does anyone really believe Carl Pavano considered returning to the Yankees? Did Brian Cashman really consider signing him, but not have any interest in Rafael Soriano? If so, is Cashman the most overrated executive in the history of professional sports? Has anyone ever done so little with so much?
7:29: Twins fans should be thrilled about the Danny Valencia era. After a few years for Brian Buscher, Nicky Punto and Joe Crede, Valencia showed good patience, good defense, and promising power. If they can get .300/.350/.450 with 15 home runs, he'll be worth 3 or 4 wins over what the Twins were getting for most of the decade. He's already the best 3B they've had since Corey Koskie's best seasons.
7:42: Interesting the Buchholz is relieving Beckett today. Both guys obviously went in opposite directions last year. Beckett has to be the biggest question mark on the club right now. Were all of his problems due to the back injury, or were there other mechanics issues? He seems to have less balance in his delivery, due to what seems to be a slightly higher leg kick. Buchholz, meanwhile, had an excellent year, but will need to improve his strikeout rate. If he can increase his strikeout rate per nine innings from the 6.2 it was last year to around 7.5, and keep his home run rate so low, he's an under-the-radar Cy Young Award candidate.
8:12: Hideki Okajima starts off his spring training by allowing a single to a lefty who hit .275 in AA last season. Usually you can't read too much into Spring Training stats, but if Okajima gets hit hard this spring, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him released. He was nontendered initially before being signed at a lower contract.
8:20: Three run double by Joe Benson. According to Jon Rish, Okajima is sitting at 85 if the stadium gun is accurate. I hate to put emphasis so early in spring, but there's a short time to evaluate and there are many people competing for only a couple roster spots.
8:35: Jeff Bailey! Good to see you! Bailey hit 78 homers as a 1B/DH for the Pawtucket from 2004-2009, before signing with the Diamondbacks as a minor league free agent before the 2010 season. Bailey is 32 now, and probably could've had Brian Daubach's career if he'd been in the right place at the right time. He has 176 career minor league homers, but he'll need to pick up the pace, though, to catch Rick Lancellotti for the minor league record - he's 100 behind. You can read an excellent interview with Lancellotti right here.
8:52: Che-Hsuan Lin is in the game after replacing Mike Cameron as a pinch runner. Lin is probably my sleeper in the Red Sox organization. He has a good, patient approach at the plate and excellent range in the outfield, covering the gaps effortlessly. Even if his power never develops, his defense and speed may carry him as a major league backup. If he can develop good gap power to the point where he can be good for 30-35 doubles a year, his pitch selection might make him a useful leadoff hitter.
8:57: Solo homer by Lars Anderson to get the Red Sox on the board. Anderson has fallen fast on prospect lists, but he's always been young for his class. His power is still excellent, but he simply strikes out way too much. 109 strikeouts in 409 at bats last year is about in line with where he's been the last couple years. If he's going to strike out that often in AAA, he's likely to do so one every 2.5 AB in the majors. It's hard to be successful in the majors at that rate, so he's really going to need to shorten up his swing and make more consistent contact.
9:20: Going to the 9th - Wagner/Linares/Spears will lead the stunning comeback. Chuck James won't know what hit him.
9:21: Mark Wagner did his part. Homer to deep left, 8-4 Twins.
9:28: The comeback is not to be. Chuck James strikes out Daniel Nava to finish it off. The Twins have a 1-0 lead in the all-important Mayor's Cup.
After a long winter, baseball is here.