The Boston Red Sox enter the new season with the title every major league club covets: defending World Series champions.
Boston completed a magnificent turnaround in 2013 to claim their third World Series title in the past decade. The Red Sox now face the tough challenge of fending off hungry contenders day in and day out in order to preserve their chances of repeating in October.
The franchise's principal owner John Henry recently discussed the challenges Boston will face this year and what a fourth title in 11 seasons would mean for the Red Sox, per WEEI.com's Alex Speier:
This is an ever-changing challenge. It’s incredibly difficult. You have 30 teams that are doing everything they can every year on and off the field to try to win. For us to win a fourth championship would be cornerstones of the careers of everyone involved here and who have been involved in these three, all the way down to two or one.
The offseason has brought a handful of new faces into the clubhouse, including veterans A.J. Pierzynski and Grady Sizemore, but the core of Boston's championship squad is intact, with stars like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino leading the way.
Still, it remains to be seen how Boston will operate under the spotlight in 2014.
With spring training underway, let's take a look at how the Red Sox are faring early on and what fans can expect in 2014.
|Thu, Feb. 27||Northeastern||1:05 p.m.||W, 5-2|
|Thu, Feb. 27||Boston College||4:05 p.m.||W, 5-2|
|Fri, Feb. 28||Minnesota Twins||1:05 p.m.||L, 8-2|
|Sat, March 1||Minnesota Twins||1:05 p.m.||L, 6-2|
|Sun, March 2||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||W, 8-6|
|Mon, March 3||Pittsburgh Pirates||1:05 p.m.||L, 7-6|
|Tue, March 4||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||L, 8-0|
|Wed, March 5||St. Louis Cardinals||1:05 p.m.||L, 8-6|
|Thu, March 6||Miami Marlins||1:05 p.m.||T, 0-0|
|Fri, March 7||Atlanta Braves||1:05 p.m.||W, 4-1|
|Sat, March 8||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||L, 7-3|
|Sat, March 8||Baltimore Orioles||7:05 p.m.||L, 13-2|
|Sun, March 9||Pittsburgh Pirates||1:05 p.m.||W, 4-1|
|Mon, March 10||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||W, 6-2|
|Tue, March 11||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||W, 6-5|
|Tue, March 11||Miami Marlins||TBD||L, 5-4|
|Thu, March 13||Minnesota Twins||1:05 p.m.||W, 4-3|
|Fri, March 14||Toronto Blue Jays||1:05 p.m.||W, 3-1|
|Sat, March 15||Philadelphia Phillies||7:05 p.m.||L, 4-1|
|Sun, March 16||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||L, 8-4|
|Mon, March 17||St. Louis Cardinals||1 p.m. (ESPN)||W, 10-5|
|Tue, March 18||New York Yankees||1 p.m. (ESPN)||L, 8-1|
|Wed, March 19||Pittsburgh Pirates||7:05 p.m.||L, 4-2|
|Thu, March 20||New York Yankees||7 p.m. (ESPN)||L, 3-2|
|Fri, March 21||Philadelphia Phillies||1:05 p.m.||T, 2-2|
|Sat, March 22||Atlanta Braves||1:05 p.m.||L, 6-3|
|Sun, March 23||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||L, 9-2|
|Mon, March 24||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||PPD (rain)|
|Tue, March 25||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||W, 4-2|
|Wed, March 26||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||L, 5-4|
|Thu, March 27||Minnesota Twins||7:05 p.m.||W, 4-1|
|Fri, March 28||Minnesota Twins||1:05 p.m.||W, 4-0|
|Sat, March 29||Minnesota Twins||1:05 p.m.||L, 7-4|
March 29: Late Pitching Woes Cause Red Sox to Lose to Twins, 7-4
Despite a strong outing from starter Jake Peavy, who gave up just one run on three hits in his five innings of work, the Red Sox couldn't pull out a win against the Twins on Saturday.
The only run allowed by Peavy came on a solo shot from Josh Willingham in the second inning. As noted by Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, it was Willingham's first home run of the spring:
Josh Willingham, mired in .049 spring slump, pumps first homer of spring over faux Green Monster for 1-0 Twins lead in 2nd— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) March 29, 2014
Mike Napoli matched it with a solo knock of his own in the bottom of the second, and he added a two-run double in the third inning, helping Boston jump out to an early 4-1 lead.
Unfortunately, Tommy Layne wasn't able to keep Minnesota's bats from coming alive in the seventh inning. He allowed five runs and two homers, losing the game as a result.
The contest was ultimately called for rain with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.
March 28: Red Sox Pitching Stifles Twins Bats, 4-0
Using a mixture of regular starters and players who are around just to fill out a spring roster, the Boston Red Sox got a solid start from Felix Doubront and dominant relief pitching to shutout Minnesota.
Doubront scattered seven hits, all singles, and struck out seven in five innings of work. Four relievers combined to allow zero hits, one walk and two strikeouts to complete Boston's victory. It was the second straight day the Red Sox pitching dominated the Twins.
As Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal noted on Twitter, Doubront's final spring start had its share of encouraging signs.
With injury-prone pitchers like Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy in the rotation, Doubront's role for the Red Sox becomes that much more important.
Offensively, Mike Napoli provided the fireworks with his fourth homer of the spring off Twins starter Phil Hughes. Xander Bogaerts continued his strong spring finish with a single and an RBI, raising his average to .250.
March 27: Red Sox Bats Wake Up Late to Beat Twins, 4-1
John Lackey came away with the no decision despite throwing 6.1 scoreless innings, but the Red Sox scored one in the seventh and two more in the eighth to beat the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
The 35-year-old struggled immensely through his first three starts of spring, but he surrendered just four hits and a walk while striking out six before eventually being pulled with a 1-0 lead in the seventh.
He had his sharpest outing of the spring. He goes into the start of the season in very good shape. He had good power and good action to his breaking ball. He also had his cutter and curveball working. It was a very productive spring from John.
Edward Mujica gave up the lead upon relieving Lackey, but Will Middlebrooks and Mike McCoy hit RBI doubles, and David Ross added insurance with a single to score McCoy.
Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli and Grady Sizemore all had two hits for the Sox, who recorded 11 hits on the evening.
March 26: Allen Webster Struggles in Loss to Orioles, 5-4
While the numbers have not always been there, Allen Webster had been having a strong spring. According to Peter Gammons, people have raved about the pitcher's ability:
Every staff member asked about which young Red Sox pitcher jumped to the front this spring answered Allen Webster— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 22, 2014
Unfortunately, that was not on display Wednesday as he gave up five runs and 11 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He also allowed a home run to Steve Clevenger in the second inning.
The good news is the bullpen picked up the slack from there as Tommy Layne, Burke Badenhop and Brayan Villareal combined for 3.1 scoreless and hitless innings.
As far as the lineup was concerned, Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks led the way with back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. Unfortunately, the rest of the offense struggled to string together hits and the team ended up with only two others runs on six hits.
Despite it being just a one-run loss, this is certainly a disappointing showing against a division rival so close to Opening Day.
March 25: Red Sox Beat Rays, 4-2
Clay Buchholz is ready to go.
The starting pitcher was excellent on Tuesday afternoon, pitching six innings and allowing just two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five as the Red Sox earned the win, 4-2. As Jayson Stark of ESPN noted, for spells in this game was flat-out dominant:
Clay Buchholz allowed 3 hits in span of 5 hitters in 3rd - & no hits to the other 17 hitters he faced. Good outing.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) March 25, 2014
Boston's offense was paced by Will Middlebrooks' third-inning solo shot, Xander Bogaerts RBI single in the fourth and Grady Sizemore's two-run homer in the sixth. The oft-injured center fielder has certainly put together a strong spring and could end up being the team's first choice at the position this season.
He's looked so good, ESPN's Tristan H. Cockcroft has named him one of his deep sleepers to watch for in fantasy baseball this year:
I admit it: I'm a sucker for Sizemore. Simply put, the dude has pop, can steal a base and knows the strike zone. He is one of only nine players to have managed at least 100 home runs, 100 stolen bases and a 10 percent walk rate the past 10 seasons combined, and his .204 isolated power ranks fifth among that group. Plus, watch Sizemore play this spring and you'll see a player not afraid to play aggressive baseball, giving him hope of once again contributing some steals (but, granted, a concern as far as games played are concerned). If the Red Sox declare him their starting center fielder in the next few days—certainly possible considering Jackie Bradley Jr. has batted an uninspiring .188—he would be well worth a stash even in mixed leagues, so long as you're prepared to deal with a high likelihood of an in-season absence.
For a 31-year-old who has barely seen the field since 2010, Sizemore's spring has certainly been impressive.
March 24: Rain Causes Cancellation after Two Innings against Orioles
Mother Nature interfered and ruined a perfectly good day of baseball. Boston's schedule game against the Orioles, which started after an hour rain delay, was called off after two innings when the wet conditions resurfaced.
After 2 scoreless innings we're cancelled in Sarasota #SoxSpring— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 24, 2014
The Red Sox and Orioles were scoreless after two innings. Drake Britton, who is battling for the final spot in Boston's bullpen, allowed three hits during the pair of frames. Ryan Lavarnway produced the team's lone hit off of Brian Matusz.
At least some fans got a memento out of it. The team's official Twitter page caught David Ortiz, fresh off signing a $16 million extension for the 2015 season earlier today, signing autographs amid a sea of puddles.
March 23: Red Sox Lose Again, This Time 9-2 at Hands of Rays
The Red Sox mustered just five hits on Sunday, two of which turned into actual runs.
Conversely, the Rays tallied 13 hits and pushed nine runners across the plate as Felix Doubront pitched just 4.1 innings, which saw him give up 10 of those hits for eight earned runs.
Remember, this is the same Doubront who gave up 10 hits and seven runs against the New York Yankees on March 18.
That said, Red Sox manager John Farrell believes Doubront has improved since last time around, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN:
But I think considering the way you evaluate his stuff last time against the Yankees compared to today, improved and I think he's coming through that dead-arm period and looking forward to his next outing where we'll look to see him put everything back together, location and the quality of stuff.
Sunday was simply bad news all around. David Ortiz produced another goose egg at the plate and bumped his average to .057 this spring.
March 22: John Lackey Lit Up as Boston Falls to Atlanta
John Lackey didn't have his best stuff on Saturday against the Braves. He allowed 10 hits and five runs in 4.2 innings pitched, raising his already bloated spring ERA to 9.49. He allowed two homers—one each to Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla.
Pitcher glove-flip alert courtesy of John Lackey: http://t.co/PN7FSYwytK— MLB (@MLB) March 22, 2014
Dalier Hinojosa was the only other Boston pitcher to surrender a run. He allowed two hits and issued two walks in just 0.1 innings, leading to a sixth Atlanta run.
The Red Sox were also nothing special at the plate. Xander Bogaerts recorded the team's lone extra base hit (a double), while he, Mike Napoli and Jackie Bradley Jr. knocked in the team's three runs.
Dustin Pedroia recorded two hits, but he left three men on base. Leaving men on base was actually the story of the game for Boston. The team left 12 men on, as coming up with big hits in clutch situations simply didn't happen for the team's bats.
March 21: Red Sox and Phillies Play to a 10 Inning Tie
Boston held a 2-0 lead through 7.5 innings, but Philadelphia scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Tony Gwynn Jr. took Brayan Villarreal deep and the Red Sox bullpen surrendered another run before the frame was over.
Neither team could notch another run in the ninth or 10th inning.
Aside from the late inning slip up from the bullpen, there was much to celebrate about the Red Sox's pitching on Friday.
Jon Lester pitched 5 and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball. He allowed just four hits in the outing. He has been sharp as a tack all spring. This most recent outing lowered his spring ERA to 0.71. Frank Pimetel of Full Scale Sports further describes Lester's spring dominance:
The hitting star of the day was A.J. Pierzynski. His two-run double off Phillies ace Cliff Lee provided all of Boston's offense.
Here's a look at Pierzynski's clutch hit.
Boston will take on the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
March 20: Clay Buchholz Struggles as Yankees Down Red Sox, 3-2
Clay Buchholz struggled on Thursday and was responsible for all three of New York's runs as he gave up five hits in as many innings as Boston dropped its third game in a row.
Francisco Cervelli torched Buchholz with a solo homer in the second inning. Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run single in the fifth to drive home Zoilo Almonte and Zelous Wheeler.
Buchholz told reporters after the game that fatigue was an issue, according to Ian Browne of MLB.com:
"Fatigue was the only thing that set in today," said Buchholz. "I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand better today than it has with less effort. It felt really good the first four innings. It's just getting that pitch count up before the season starts."
While a disappointing outing, Buchholz will be back on the mound sooner rather than later to tune up:
Buchholz: Will get 2 more starts. Physically feels good. In years past, it's been a full start than will ease off in last one.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 21, 2014
But now for the good news—Dustin Pedroia scored two via a double, with Carlos Rivero and Grady Sizemore getting to cross the plate as a result.
March 19: Pirates top Red Sox Late, 4-2
Boston reliever Dalier Hinojosa gave up a pair of eighth-inning runs to send the Red Sox to a 4-2 defeat against the Pittsburgh Pirates under the lights on Wednesday, but there were still some positive developments.
At the top of the list was Jake Peavy's strong performance in his second start of spring training. The 32-year-old righty finished 4.2 innings of work, giving up an earned run on four hits and a walk while striking out five.
This man brings the energy. @JakePeavy_44: I got a little excited, it was my 1st night game. It's fun to compete, I was a little too fast.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 20, 2014
Another good development for the Red Sox was the return of Will Middlebrooks, who missed nearly a week with a finger injury. The infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate, scored a run, stole a base and helped execute this wild double play.
But Middlebrooks also couldn't handle the ball at third base on a throw during a double-steal attempt, one which eventually led to the game-winning runs in the eighth inning.
Staying with the positives, top prospect Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-3 at the plate with a stolen base and an RBI but his spring average sits at .179. Still, skipper John Farrell sounded happy with Bogaerts' evening.
Farrell: Good night for X. It was almost like he let the ball travel a little more. He looked good in the box. 2-for-3 tonight.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 20, 2014
Jonny Gomes also drove home a run for the Sox in the fifth inning, but that's all Boston could muster against Pittsburgh starter Wandy Rodriguez and Co.
March 18: Red Sox fall to New York Yankees, 8-1
This is not the result that the Red Sox want to see against their biggest rival, but fortunately it is still just spring training.
The Yankees lineup pounded the starting pitching as Felix Doubront was roughed up in this one. After allowing one run in the first inning, things got much worse in the second as the first five batters got on base. A Mark Teixeira single brought home two additional runs to make it 5-0 through two innings.
After a scoreless third, Doubront allowed two runners on base in the fourth. Brandon Workman replaced the starter, but nothing changed as Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run home run to extend the lead to 8-0.
Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com notes the problem for Doubront, who allowed seven earned runs in 3.2 innings:
Farrell said Felix Doubront is battling through a little bit of a "dead arm." Doubront had been great till today.— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) March 18, 2014
Meanwhile, the offense was not much better as the team struggled to bring home base-runners. Jonathan Herrera led the way with two hits and the only RBI, which came on a single in the seventh inning.
The only good news is that there were few starters in the game for the Red Sox going against what could be the Opening Day lineup for the Yankees with the exception of Jacoby Ellsbury. Boston will still hope for a better performance the next time out against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
March 17: Red Sox beat Cardinals, 10-5
Grady Sizemore is already having an major impact for the Red Sox after missing the last two seasons and agreeing to a deal with Boston in January.
Sizemore took advantage of his playing time Monday and had three hits and runs apiece to power the Red Sox over the Cardinals. Even better, Sizemore was electric in the outfield:
The rave reviews poured in, as captured by Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:
"He played like a $15 million player," said one Red Sox player on Grady Sizemore's three hits and great catch today vs Cards— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) March 17, 2014
The Red Sox were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the fourth thanks to starter John Lackey's meltdown in which he gave up six hits and two walks while only fanning three.
A five-run fifth put the Red Sox up for good en route to the victory.
March 16: Rays beat Red Sox 8-4
Rays' ace David Price went six and two-third innings and struck out seven to power Tampa passed the Red Sox. Tampa held an 8-0 lead at one point.
The Red Sox bats came alive late, but they were trailing by too much to make up the deficit. Deven Marrero did go deep for Boston, but Tampa's pitching staff controlled Boston's bats overall.
Boston fell to 7-10-1 on the spring with the loss.
Most of the team's notables sat out the game, so fans shouldn't overreact to the defeat. That said, starter Allen Webster was roughed up for two runs in four innings.
In relief, Drake Britton was touched up for five runs in an inning and two thirds.
While the lineup was sparse, there is some concern about the poor pitching performance. Boston will be back at it on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
March 15: Red Sox' Bats Cool Off, Lose to Phillies, 4-1
Boston had a tough outing against a solid Cliff Lee on Saturday. Lee pitched five innings, allowing just three hits and zero runs. The Red Sox just couldn't seem to get their bats going, as they fell to the Phillies by a score of 4-1.
FINAL: Phillies 4, @RedSox 1. We travel to Port Charlotte tomorrow to face Rays at 1pm.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 16, 2014
Despite the absence of their bats, not all went wrong for the Red Sox. Jon Lester was given the loss for the game, but looked solid over his four innings pitched. He allowed just two hits, one run and struck out five batters over that span.
Burke Badenhop didn't the same success. The Phillies poured it on over his lone inning, totaling four hits and three runs.
On the offensive side, Jonny Gomes had the sole highlight of the evening, blasting a solo shot to left field in the bottom of the seventh.
Philadelphia totaled seven hits on the day, while Boston tallied six. The difference in this one was that the Phillies were able to get hot in the fifth inning, while Boston couldn't seem to capitalize on any opportunities.
March 14: Red Sox Eliminate Toronto Blue Jays, 3-1, With Strong Pitching
The Red Sox notched another spring training victory on Friday, helped along by a collectively strong performance from starter Clay Buchholz and the team’s loaded bullpen.
Bucholz pitched four scoreless innings, and at one point retired 11-straight before manager John Farrell began working in his substitutes.
RBI double for Corey Brown breaks tie. Gomes hustlin from 1st makes it 1-0 in the 5th. Buchholz has retired 11 straight. #BoysAreBack— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 14, 2014
Rich Hill came in after the starter, making his much-anticipated spring training debut.
Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe spoke with Farrell about Hill before his appearance on Friday:
Farrell on Hill pre-game: “It’s pretty remarkable how well the ball is getting out of his hand and how quick he’s able to get to this level"— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 14, 2014
Abraham also noted that Hill went scoreless in the bottom of the fifth, a brave feat considering the person tragedy the pitcher endured:
There’s no cheering in the press box. But Rich Hill just threw a 1-2-3 inning and good for him. #redsox— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 14, 2014
Boston’s only runs, aside from Cory Brown’s RBI double in the top of the fifth inning, came on a Brandon Snyder sacrifice fly and Sean Coyle RBI double in the eighth inning.
Overall, the Red Sox have to be impressed with their pitching and feel good going into Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
March 13: Red Sox Beat Minnesota Twins 4-3 in Jake Peavy's Spring Debut
A Dustin Pedroia two-run double was enough to give the Red Sox the lead in the fifth inning and the bullpen took care of the rest to come away with a 4-3 win.
Jake Peavy was solid in his spring debut, tossing three innings while allowing just one run. He walked two but also struck out two while displaying a new pitch, as noted by Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe:
Peavy working on a split-finger fastball. Talked to Uehara about it. He thinks it’s game-worthy. #redsox— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 13, 2014
Unfortunately, Andrew Miller could not follow up this strong performance, giving up two runs in just two-thirds of an inning. The rest of the staff had a clean day, including three scoreless innings from Brandon Workman.
At the plate, Pedroia got the big hit to drive in Daniel Nava and Corey Brown. He and Shane Victorino each finished with two hits while the rest of the lineup combined for just three more. Still, this was enough to pull off the win.
March 11: Bullpen Flounders Against Marlins, 5-4; Trio of Taters Down Orioles, 6-5
Another day, another rough start for a Red Sox pitcher.
John Lackey, much like Jon Lester the day before him, got off to a strong outing in the first two innings in his spring debut. The 6'6" right-hander then promptly allowed three runs in the third before being chased after 2.2 innings.
The 35-year-old spoke about his start following the game and said the struggles might have been due to trying to work in offspeed pitches in the final frame, per Ian Browne of MLB.com:
I felt all right. That was a good place to start. I pretty much threw all fastballs the first two innings, tried to work on a few things in that third inning. I got a little bit tired and will probably be a little sore tomorrow. It's just a little step up in intensity, but a good place to start.
Offensively, Mike Carp provided the spark for the Sox in the box.
While he's hitting just .238 throughout the spring for Boston, Carp has three homers after belting another solo shot against the Miami Marlins. Top catching prospect Christian Vazquez turned in another good performance for the Sox with a 1-for-2 day at the plate with an RBI single.
Travis Shaw, a first base prospect, registered the only other extra-base hit outside of Carp's homer with an RBI double. The double was Shaw's second of the spring as he finally got back over the .100 mark at 2-for-19 in the Grapefruit League.
Drake Britton earned his first loss of the spring after surrendering two runs in two innings off two hits with two strikeouts. The lefthander had not given up a run through his previous four frames, but ran into some hard luck on Tuesday afternoon.
In the second game of the split squad contests, Will Middlebrooks continued to crush his way back into the hearts of Boston fans. The third baseman hit his second homer of the spring in the seventh inning to help lead the Sox to a win.
Middlebrooks also got a little reassurance from manager John Farrell about his position this season, per Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe:
Along with Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway and Brock Holt also put one over the wall during solo homers of their own earlier in the game. A.J. Pierzynski added another RBI single to continue a good spring showing for the offseason addition.
March 10: Papi Homers as Sox Roll Rays, 6-2
Welcome back, David Ortiz.
The man infamously known as Big Papi hasn't had his A-game throughout the spring thus far, but the Tampa Bay Rays certainly rolled out the red carpet for him on Monday afternoon.
After winning the 2013 World Series MVP, Ortiz has hopes of repeating that success coming into the season at 38 years old. If Monday's homer is any indication of where Ortiz is power-wise, the Dominican player could be in for another productive season at the plate.
While Ortiz was back to his old ways in the box, Jon Lester was dealing on the mound. The lefthander got the start and went three innings, allowing just one hit to go along with his four strikeouts and one walk.
The start was the first of the spring season for Lester and he made his mark. Though he hasn't been re-signed by the Red Sox, he clearly hasn't let that hamper him in his preparation. Lester spoke about the negotiations, per Ricky Doyle of NESN:
I’m sure you guys will know before I do on anything that happens, but nothing has gone on recently. [...] Like I said, I just play baseball. I let those guys talk and handle all that stuff.
Those are the guys with more answers than me, if you guys want to, I guess, get more answers from Seth or Sam or (Red Sox general manager) Ben (Cherington) or any of those guys. I think they’ll be able to answer a little bit better than I will in this whole deal right now.
The two mainstays enjoying success along with Shane Victorino getting plunked had Michael Dyer of Fox 25 a little reminiscent about the last time all the players were on the field together:
Ortiz with a bomb, Victorino with a hit by pitch, Lester with 3 shutout innings. It's like October all over again.— Michael Dyer (@Mike_Dyer13) March 10, 2014
Aside from the usual suspects like Ortiz raking and Lester carving up hitters, a few other players helped get Boston the victory.
Grady Sizemore continued his hot spring training at the plate with another 1-for-3 performance. The former Cleveland Indians outfielder boasts a .364 average this spring and is looking like a lock to back up Jackie Bradley Jr. in centerfield.
Will Middlebrooks also had a good day for the Sox, going 2-for-3 with a single, double and two RBI. The 25-year-old had an abysmal 2013 season following his breakout rookie year, but he could be back on track heading into the regular season.
March 9: Carp's Home Run Leads Boston to 4-1 over Pirates
With the Boston Red Sox using five pitchers who allowed a combined four hits and one run, they didn't need Mike Carp's third-inning, two-run blast.
Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run single in the first, which will give him a boost in his quest to win the starting job in center field. That was Bradley's lone hit, however, in his four at-bats.
Clay Buchholz started the game and picked up the win after going three excellent innings. He didn't surrender a hit and allowed just one walk. The strong outing from Buchholz is a great sign for Boston. MassLive.com's Jason Mastrodonato passes along that Buchholz is gearing up for a healthy start to the season:
Shoulder strong, Clay Buchholz on pace for healthy start to regular season: 'That's where I need to be right now' http://t.co/MLyaECfnFq— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) March 9, 2014
Buchholz looked strong in this start, and he was even able to work in a few breaking balls in his third inning of work.
Carp's home run was his second of the spring and it is one of his two hits in three at-bats on the day. The veteran needed a strong day, but it was only enough to raise his average for the spring to just .222.
March 8: Baltimore Orioles Defeat Red Sox, 13-2
Same opponent, same result. The Boston Red Sox dropped their second split-squad game against the Baltimore Orioles, 13-2.
Thru six innings, Boston was down, but not out. The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth after a single by Nolan Reimold and a double by Henry Urrutia. Michael Almanzar doubled two innings later, scoring Urrutia and Corey Brown, making it 4-0.
In the top of the seventh, the Orioles offense exploded for eight runs, putting the game out of reach for the Red Sox. Miguel Celestino was credited with six runs, only three of which were earned, and didn't record an out in the seventh. Shunsuke Watanabe gave up two runs after replacing Celestino.
Christian Vazquez drove in both of the Sox's runs, with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Fangraphs' David Laurila thinks Vazquez should enter Opening Day as Boston's starting catcher:
Going into last season I said Jose Iglesias should be Red Sox starting shortstop. This year I say Christian Vazquez should be the catcher.— David Laurila (@DavidLaurilaQA) March 9, 2014
With both David Ross and A.J. Pierzynski as his main competition, Vazquez may work his way up the depth chart as the season goes on.
March 8: Baltimore Orioles Defeat Red Sox, 7-3
A four-run sixth inning separated the Orioles from the Red Sox as the home team came away with a 7-3 victory.
Boston starter Henry Owens struggled on the mound, as detailed by Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald:
Henry Owens unable to complete 3rd inning vs Orioles' A lineup. KO'd by back-to-back doubles by Markakis/Hardy, walks to Davis/Jones #RedSox— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) March 8, 2014
Owens ended with three runs allowed on five hits in 2.1 innings. Of course, this was a better showing than Alex Wilson, who allowed four runs on five hits while only getting two outs in the sixth inning.
Things were slightly better at the plate as both Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz went 2-for-3 with a home run. On the other end of the spectrum was Jackie Bradley, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to drop to .176.
There were certainly some bright spots in the game, but it was overall a disappointing performance for the Red Sox.
March 7: Red Sox Defeat Atlanta Braves, 4-1
Timely hitting in a three-run seventh inning was all the Red Sox needed to come away with a 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Jonathan Herrera came to the plate with runners at first and third and two outs. He came through for Boston with a double to center, which was followed by a two-run single by Ryan Lavarnway to extend the lead to 4-1.
The offense was solid throughout the day with 10 different players getting at least one hit, led by Grady Sizemore who went 2-for-3.
Felix Doubront took advantage of the start and posted four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, allowing only two hits. Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop each posted scoreless innings in relief to lead up to Francisco Cordero, who earned his first save of the spring with a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts.
Overall, this was a strong effort from a starting lineup that closely resembled what will be seen on opening day.
March 6: Red Sox Tie Miami Marlins, 0-0
Sometimes you get upset when a game is called due to rain. In this case, it was a merciful end to a poor matchup.
Boston did not send its best lineup, which "outraged" the Marlins due to the fact that they were charging "super premium" prices for tickets. Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun Sentinel provided the details:
Seven of the club’s starting nine position players Thursday do not have so much as one major league plate appearance. The only two with any big league time were outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (95 at-bats) and catcher Ryan Lavarnway (269 at-bats).
The Marlins had no comment, but a source said team executives were “outraged” and planned to contact the league office. Attempts to reach a league representative were not immediately successful.
Those batters that did show up only barely did so, totaling seven hits and zero runs before the game was called due to rain in the eighth inning. Shortstop Deven Marrero led the way with a 2-for-4 effort on the day.
On the other hand, the Marlins lineup was even worse, managing just two hits. Starting pitcher Allen Webster totaled three scoreless innings while giving up one hit and no walks.
The game ended with a runner on first and two outs before the rain became too much to play through. In reality, it is unlikely too many people were upset to end things early.
Mar. 5: St. Louis Cardinals Defeated Red Sox, 8-6
Boston opened the scoring in the first inning with a home run from Daniel Nava, but the lead was short lived as St. Louis first baseman Xavier Scruggs gave the Cardinals the lead with a two-run home run.
Matt Adams added two more runs for St. Louis in the third inning, and the Cardinals managed three more in the fourth, led by RBI from Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, taking the score to 7-1.
The Red Sox didn’t go down without a fight, though, and racked up three runs of their own in the sixth inning led by the two-run home run from Xander Bogaerts and another RBI for Will Middlebrooks.
St. Louis added another run in the sixth on a RBI from Joey Butler to make the score 8-4.
While Boston was able to add two more runs in the top of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were able to hold on for the victory.
Mar. 4: Tampa Bay Rays Defeated Red Sox, 8-0
The Boston Red Sox have struggled during the early portion of Spring Training, and the issues continued on Tuesday when the team was destroyed by the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-0.
Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce started the offensive onslaught in the first inning and forced starter Clay Buchholz from the game after just one inning pitched. The Rays followed it up with a strong second inning, as David DeJesus racked up an RBI and James Loney hit a two-run home run.
Jose Molina added another run in the third inning, but Tampa Bay blew it open in the fifth when Sean Rodriguez hit a home run before Hak-Ju Lee hit a two-run double to that gave the Rays an 8-0 lead.
Boston’s bullpen kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard for the final four innings, but this was a tough loss to swallow.
Mar. 3: Pittsburgh Pirates defeat Red Sox, 7-6
The Boston Red Sox didn’t go down without a fight, but eventually the team was handed a tough loss by the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-6.
Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead in the first inning when Pedro Alvarez it a two-run homerun. Boston brought the score within one in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Herrera, but the Pirates broke it wide open in the bottom of the inning.
Russell Martin started the offense with a two-run homerun and both Alvarez and Travis Snider added an RBI a piece. The score remained 6-1 until the Red Sox scored two runs on a homerun from Bryce Brentz in the seventh inning.
Boston actually managed to tie the game in the top of the eighth inning off a homerun from Mike Carp and a sacrifice from Peter Hissey, but Pittsburgh added a run in the bottom of the inning off an RBI from Chris McGuiness to seal the win.
Jared Hughes got the save.
Mar. 2: Red Sox defeat Baltimore Orioles, 8-6
It took three tries, but the defending World Series champion Red Sox notched their first win of spring training over a fellow MLB club on Sunday, beating the Orioles 8-6.
The two sides took some time to find their offense as the first three innings were scoreless, but when the fourth inning came around, the Boston bats finally woke up. Two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, along with another in the sixth, allowed the Sox to stroll out to an early lead.
Baltimore got on the board in the top of the sixth, but the Red Sox were quick to prove their dominance again in the eighth inning. Travis Shaw and Brandon Snyder contributed to a three-run eighth that saw Boston to an even larger lead.
As the Sox beat down their AL East opponent, the club's official Twitter account couldn't help but notice David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in midseason form, at least with their celebrations:
The Red Sox entered the ninth with an 8-1 lead thanks to a masterful two innings from Felix Doubront before Boston gave up five runs in the final inning.
Mar. 1: Minnesota Twins defeat Red Sox, 6-2
Pitching struggles continued for the Red Sox on Saturday, as Boston dropped its second-straight game to the Twins.
Allen Webster got the start but didn't last long. After giving up four hits and three earned runs through just 1.2 innings pitched, he was yanked from the game, earning a loss and a 16.20 ERA.
Jose Mijares struggled equally, pitching just 0.2 innings and allowing four hits and three earned runs. That performance netted him an unimpressive 40.50 ERA.
Not every pitched struggled though. Drake Britton looked fantastic against the Twins. He pitched two shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out four batters. Over that duration, Britton threw 15 pitches—all strikes.
Manager John Farrell came away pleased with Britton's performance during a press conference with Boston.com, "He was outstanding. He was crisp; he was powerful."
Britton added, " I felt really good mechanically. I was not trying to do too much, just stay where I was at."
On the offensive side, it didn't go much better. As a team, the Red Sox accumulated six hits from five different batters. However, the team did not start its stud players such as David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, so a drop in productivity was expected.
Daniel Nava had the bat of the game, crushing a solo shot in the first inning for Boston's first score. He ended up going 1-2 with a walk. The Red Sox official Twitter account was pleased with the early power shown by Nava:
Garin Cecchini recorded the best batting average of the game, recording two hits on three at bats for a .667 average.
Feb. 28: Minnesota Twins defeat Red Sox, 8-2
The first spring training game against Major League competition did not go as planned for the Red Sox.
Boston fell to the Minnesota Twins 8-2 on a day that was marked with pitching struggles for two relief pitchers in particular.
Dalier Hinojosa swallowed the loss after giving up four hits and three earned runs in only 1.2 innings pitched. Andrew Miller wasn’t much better, allowing three earned runs in only .2 innings pitched. Strangely enough, Miller didn’t allow a single hit but he did issue three costly walks.
However, the more important story from a Boston perspective than the loss was the success of highly touted prospect Anthony Ranaudo.
In his first appearance against MLB hitters, he retired all six batters he faced on only 24 pitches. Ranaudo tallied four strikeouts as well.
On the hitting side of things, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz both went 0-for-2, but Mike Napoli recorded hits in each of his at bats, and Bryce Brentz notched a deep home run. The Boston Red Sox Twitter page was happy to give Brentz a shoutout:
Pitcher Mike Pelfrey was strong for the Twins with two scoreless innings and commented on his appearance to Ian Browne of MLB.com:
It's fun. You get excited. The adrenaline starts going again and that competitiveness comes back. It's fun. It's hard sometimes. I think you have goals coming in and you want to work on some things, but then you get into it and it's like, 'Oh, hey, let's go.' It's competitive. Instead, you kind of lose sight of what you wanted to do. I thought I did a good job with most things. I'd have liked to have been a little better down and in on right-handers, but I'll continue to work on it.
Feb. 27: Red Sox defeat Northeastern, 5-2
Boston's spring training began on a high note on Thursday as the Red Sox cruised to a 5-2 win over the Northeastern Huskies.
The matchup was the first of a doubleheader for Boston and featured limited appearances by the team's star players. With the game winding down, beloved slugger David Ortiz reminded fans that he'll be a mainstay in the lineup come opening day, whenever it happens to be:
Papi: "I'll be good to go April 1st." Reporter: So you're not playing Opening Day?" Papi: "It's in March? When the lights pop, Papi pops."— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) February 27, 2014
Despite the lopsided matchup, Boston actually trailed 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. However, as anticipated, the Sox would rally when it was their turn at the plate, pulling ahead before closing it out in seven innings.
Pre-Spring Training Prediction for 2014 Season
With Boston's pitching staff intact and a handful of key contributors returning in 2014, the Red Sox will have an excellent shot to repeat as American League East champions and secure a postseason berth next fall.
Although the division features plenty of dangerous teams—none more troublesome than the rival New York Yankees, who are reloaded and ready to make a run—Boston has the pieces in place to fend off the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and others for the pennant.
As MLB.com's Richard Justice points out, Boston has the pitching depth to prevail in one of baseball's toughest divisions:
The Red Sox have tremendous pitching depth up and down their Minor League system. If they have to use eight or nine starters, they have more gifted arms than any team in the division.
In the playoffs, the Detroit Tigers project to be Boston's biggest challenge. With two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera setting the tone at the plate, and the Detroit pitching staff presenting problems as well, it's unlikely that the Red Sox, missing some notable contributors from a season ago (Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew), will be able to get past the Tigers twice in as many years.
Therefore, look for Boston's run to end in the American League Championship Series next October. Keep in mind there hasn't been a repeat World Series champion since the Yankees won their third consecutive title back in 2000.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.