The Red Sox struck back against the Twins Thursday night, repaying a home defeat with a home defeat as their B-team took the win on the other side of Fort Myers.
But if the Red Sox won, it was a game which may have inspired some collar tugging around the Boston area. Even if, intellectually speaking, we all know it should do nothing of the sort.
An all-too-familiar Porcello
Let's start with the starter. While Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval seem to always be mentioned as last year's disappointing duo, Rick Porcello is the oft-included third member of that unfortunate party. While he ended the year on a good run, pitching to a 3.14 ERA after returning from the disabled list on August 26th, the story of his 2015 is still one of long fly balls, many of which left the park.
Which is why Porcello's performance last night was just so...ominous. Two innings of one-run ball does not stand out in the box score. It's a 4.50 ERA, and perhaps we'd hope for more from Porcello, but in a 2-inning sample these things swing wildly, 4.50 is literally the best you can do without hitting 0.00, and so is perfectly acceptable. But the way Porcello surrendered that run is why it's concerning. It was all up in the zone from the supposed ground-ball pitcher, and the Twins were predictably capable of teeing off on it. The only reason Porcello allowed just the one run was because Bryce Brentz threw out Brian Dozier at third to start the game (though, admittedly, Brentz helped make that hit dangerous before he erased it) and Brock Holt knocked down a line drive that would have left the second inning a real mess. It was a night reminiscent of Porcello's first half, and the Red Sox just can't have more of that from him.
Et tu, Rusney?
Speaking of decently expensive players in need of a rebound, how's it going, Rusney Castillo? About the same as last year? Well alright then.
Castillo started spring out of action, albeit with the flu this time instead of an actual injury. Then he grounded out twice and struck out in his first game action. As with Porcello, that was pretty much the Rusney Castillo story last year, and as with Porcello, the Red Sox really can't have him doing it again this year.
The good news for Castillo and Porcello alike is that spring training results mean so very, very little. Especially single-game spring training results. So long as they show up in April nobody will remember what happened in March. The only time we do tend to remember March performances is when they're really good and then lead into disappointing regular seasons. Which brings us to...
Travis Shaw is feeling it
Travis Shaw has stepped up to the plate five times now this spring, counting the college double header, and has yet to record an out. Another 2-for-2 day, this time with a walk mixed in, has Shaw looking ready to keep his story going into 2016, and possibly put some serious pressure on Hanley Ramirez to perform in kind.
Of course, I just got done saying that spring results mean almost nothing, and that still holds. Hell, if I'm being perfectly honest, I'd almost rather Shaw had gone 1-for-4 with a walk and a double because that would be pretty good but not attention-grabbingly so. It just seems like the players who perform inordinately well in spring never pan out in summer, which is probably in part because you rarely end up with truly good players who are in a position where they really have to prove to the manager what they can do in March. Not the case for Shaw, truly good or not.
Really, however I try to gussy it up, it's going to come out to be little more than superstition. The fact is that 4-for-4 from Shaw is better than not 4-for-4 from Shaw. This is by far the game's most positive performance, and we'd like to see a whole lot more of. And if those performances keep Shaw high enough in John Farrell's estimation, he'll get the chance to prove himself with consistent playing time in the regular season, which is what will really sort this Shaw situation out.
Fear Allen Craig
There was a point in last night's game where Dave O'Brien and Jerry Remy were musing that this Allen Craig, who was hitting the ball hard against the Twins, was the one who played for the Cardinals.
Don't believe it folks. Just don't. That path leads nowhere good. Allen Craig couldn't even hit against minor leaguers in the regular season last year. And that's the bare minimum he needs to achieve before anyone should even start thinking about Craig wearing a Red Sox uniform again. Nothing he does in spring should change that. Allen Craig is a black hole of hopes and dreams. He will take them in endlessly and never let them escape. Do not be pulled in. Escape now, while you still can.
Matt Barnes struck out Miguel Angel Sano
See? Proof that spring training is silly!