The Red Sox start playing major-league teams on Friday, but before that they had their annual tune-up game against college competition. There was only one game this year, but Northeastern was able to keep the game relatively close thanks to shaky performances from a few pitchers. We were only able to actually see the first couple innings, but there are a few points worth noting based off the box score and the observations from the beat writers in attendance.
Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis go deep
The Red Sox are looking for some power to make up for David Ortiz’ loss, and while Moreland certainly won’t be the overall replacement, power is the best part of his game. He showed that off with a three-run home run in the third inning on Thursday. Moreland has hit at least 22 home runs in his last three full seasons. Three batters later, after a single and a double, Travis also hit a three-run blast. Travis is an intriguing prospect who, in an ideal world, will be taking over first base from Moreland next season. Power has been the biggest question mark in his game, and while a home run off a college pitcher won’t move the needle much, it’s nice to see from a player recovering from ACL surgery. If you recall correctly, Travis dominated in spring training last year to the tune of a 1.147 OPS and put himself squarely on the map as a future contributor. He got off on the right foot for a repeat performance.
Encouraging outing from Brian Johnson
It can’t be said enough how large the grain of salt is that should be taken with anything regarding this game. With that being said, it was nice to see Johnson put together a strong two-inning outing today. He’s almost certainly going to start the year in Triple-A, but he’ll be fighting for the seventh spot on the depth chart. Coming off a season that was marred by poor performance and personal issues, even a strong performance against subpar competition is great. Johnson tossed two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. The other three outs he recorded were all grounders.
Rough day for a few young relievers
Following Johnson on the mound today were almost exclusively pitchers who have an outside-at-best chance at making an impact in the majors this year. Three of them — Marcus Walden, Austin Maddox, and Ben Taylor — looked good. The other three did not. Chandler Shepherd, Jamie Callahan and Luis Ysla each allowed two runs on the day. All of these guys wanted to make good first impressions, but ultimately none were going to make the Opening Day roster anyway and their performance once the regular season starts is what will matter.
Rusney Castillo with a poor first impression
Castillo is in a weird spot, as he feels he’s certainly talented enough to make the major-league roster but has almost no chance of doing so given that his contract would count against the luxury tax if he did. The only way to do so would be to really impress the coaching staff this spring. That didn’t happen on Thursday. Bad games are fine, even against college opponents. Neither Mookie Betts nor Xander Bogaerts got a hit, and no one really cares. Castillo, though, grounded a double play ball and failed to run out to first base. According to John Farrell, the outfielder forgot how many outs there were. Whether that’s true or he just didn’t care, it’s not a good sign for a guy who already had a slim chance of major-league time this year.
Tomorrow, they get some major-league competition with the Mets coming to JetBlue Park for the start of Grapefruit League action. First pitch will be at 1:05 ET and this time it really will be on WEEI, although on the 850 AM version and not the 93.7 FM one.