Jose Iglesias had a game that many wouldn't have expected.
Boston’s 4-3 loss came two days after the Red Sox defeated a pair of college programs, Boston College and Northeastern University, in exhibition games. Tampa Bay got their runs on a Ryan Roberts sacrifice fly in the first inning, an error on Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the third and a two-run home run from Leslie Anderson in the eighth.
The Red Sox were down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth and were able to cut the deficit to one run, but Daniel Nava struck out looking to end the game. For a full recap of the game, I compiled a live blog of the afternoon’s events.
But it's time to go into a little more depth about what was good and bad in Saturday’s action.
John Lackey is Healthy, Pitches Fine
The Boston Red Sox haven’t had John Lackey take the mound for in-game action since 2011. He missed all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and enters 2013 with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
As he told Tim Britton of The Providence Journal, “I took a second before I went on the mound and reflected on the past year and a half. It’s been a lot of work.”
How many games will John Lackey win in 2013?
Lackey pitched the first inning against the Rays, just trying to get some work in. Ben Zobrist drew a walk, Desmond Jennings singled and Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch to start the afternoon, and before he knew it, the Rays had the bases loaded and no one out.
Jack Cust struck out swinging, but Roberts hit a sacrifice fly to Shane Victorino in right field and Tampa Bay scored its first run of the game. A Sean Rodriguez fly out to Victorino ended the inning for the Red Sox and the outing for Lackey.
After he exited, Lackey told Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, “I was excited. It was fun. I missed playing baseball for sure. And I didn’t feel any pain in my elbow.”
It was relatively obvious that Lackey had some nerves once taking the mound, but those subsided with each batter. He found his command and was able to escape further damage. Going forward, Lackey should be fine. He’s much slimmer and just needs to keep throwing.
Jose Iglesias a Hitter?
Throughout Jose Igelsias’ entire career, he’s been known as a defensive mastermind who couldn’t hit. Well, if you’d never seen Iglesias play, you would’ve thought the opposite if tuning in on Saturday.
Iglesias fielded a routine ground ball by Ty Morrison in the top of the sixth inning and made a nonchalant throw to Daniel Nava, who was getting some experience at first base. The erratic throw pulled Nava off the bag, Morrison reached and Iglesias was credited with an error.
Iglesias made up for it in the bottom half of the frame, though, as he crushed a pitch to left field for a two-run home run, tying the game at 2-2.
Will Jose Iglesias ever improve his hitting skills?
To say that the Iglesias home run was rare would be a major understatement. In nearly 1,000 career at-bats in the minor leagues, Iglesias only has two hits that went over the fence. Yes, in three years in Boston’s system, Iglesias has hit two home runs. He does, however, have another, coming last season with the Red Sox.
But to call Iglesias a power hitter would be a mistake. He’s still developing his play with the bat—hopefully it can complement his glove sometime in the near future.
Iglesias would have been the starting shortstop this season if the Red Sox felt that his bat was going to get better over the offseason. Instead, Boston signed Stephen Drew, who started Saturday, and now Iglesias will likely start the season back with Triple-A Pawtucket.
But if Iglesias can keep hitting consistently and with power, who knows what will happen come Opening Day.
Shane Victorino Off to a Slow Start
When the Red Sox decided to trade Carl Crawford last season and let Cody Ross walk in free agency this past winter, they had two outfield holes to fill. Shane Victorino was one of the players Boston brought in to potentially improve on last season’s disappointing result.
Boston signed Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal, hoping that he’d be able to hit around .295 with some power like he had done previously in his career. Over the last three seasons, Victorino has hit .264/.334/.432 with an average of 15 home runs and 62 RBI per year.
Will Shane Victorino live up to his three-year deal?
Victorino got his first chance to dawn a Red Sox uniform Saturday, hitting third and starting in right field. Although he played well defensively, he was a disaster offensively.
After Jacoby Ellsbury walked in the first and Dustin Pedroia struck out, Victorino stepped into the box looking to make an early mark on the game. Instead, he grounded into a double play that ended the inning.
The next time Victorino came up, he grounded out to second base. In his third at-bad, he grounded into another double play. Going 0-for-3, grounding into a pair of double plays and leaving three men on base probably isn’t the start he was looking for.
But, of course, this was just the first of many games that Victorino will play this spring. There’s plenty of time for him to bounce back offensively after a poor first game. It’s much too early to judge his contract; it’s only been one game.