The first of what is hopefully many wins in 2017 is in the books after the Red Sox put together a late-game comeback to squeak by the Twins by an 8-7 score. This was the first game of the Very Serious rivalry between the two clubs who share a spring training home town. Here are a few notes from the contest.
Tyler Thornburg’s rough debut
Saturday marked the first time we had a chance to see Tyler Thornburg in action for the Red Sox, and it did not go well. The reliever only made it through two-thirds of an inning and allowed five runs on four hits, one walk and one strikeout. The good news is that one of the runs was unearned, and all four of the hits he allowed were singles. The bad news is that they were mostly line drives, so he wasn’t really BABIP’d to death. Obviously, it isn’t too concerning to see someone struggle in his first game action of the year. It’s still February. Plus, as Tim Britton points out, it wasn’t the first time he’s struggled in spring training. That being said, he’s being counted on for a big year this season and a good first impression would’ve been nice.
Three more key bullpen members appear, too
The middle of this game featured three guys in Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and Robbie Ross who figure to be major pieces in Boston’s bullpen. Their performances varied in quality. Barnes was the first to appear, and although he didn’t struggle as much as Thornburg he wasn’t great. He allowed two runners he inherited from Thornburg to score on an RBI double and then allowed a solo home run to Drew Stubbs in the next frame. On the plus side, he struck out three batters in his 1-1/3 inning stint. Kelly and Ross each threw clean frames with a strikeout apiece.
Mookie Betts is still Mookie Betts
It wasn’t a notably great game by Mookie Betts, who got his first Grapefruit League action of the year, but it sure was nice to see the MVP runner-up on the field again. Hitting third in Saturday’s lineup, he tallied a single and a double and scored twice. Ahead of Betts in the lineup were Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, both of whom got hits.
Hanley Ramirez and Sam Travis off to strong starts
Ramirez and Travis are in different situations, but they are both making strong impressions as spring training just gets started. The former is obviously expected to be a big part of the lineup this year, and hit cleanup against the Twins. He got three at bats in the game and smacked an RBI double in the first inning. It was his second extra-base hit of the spring. Sam Travis didn’t start the game, but came in to take over first base from Mitch Moreland after a few innings. After hitting a home run in the game against Northeastern, he hit an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth on Saturday. It’s still incredibly early, but if he keeps hitting like this he’ll put those injury concerns in his rear view and be on track for a relatively early call-up this year.
Allen Craig takes a couple for the team
Allen Craig probably won’t see any time with the big-league club this year, but he still sacrificed himself for the squad in this one. He was hit by two pitches in the game, including one in the earhole. Fortunately, he was able to spring right up. He also had an outfield assist.
The rest of the pitchers
Although the relievers highlighted the throwers in this one, it was Roenis Elias who got the start. He’s the forgotten man in the battle for the seventh starter role, but he has a real chance. He looked good in a 1-2-3 first inning, but allowed a solo home run to Byung Ho Park to start the second. It was the only hit he’d allow in the two frames he threw and he struck out three batters. He’ll stay right in this battle all spring. At the end of the game, the Red Sox sent out Edgar Olmos and Austin Maddox. The latter likely won’t figure into their plans this year, but the former was an under-the-radar minor-league signing who will be part of their relatively shallow left-handed reliever depth. The both threw scoreless innings.