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Red Sox 4, Twins 3: The Grapefruit League slate starts with a win

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Alex Cora is undefeated! He’s amazing!

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox began their game action on Thursday when they swept a doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College, but Friday marked the beginning of official spring training games around the league. Boston started their Grapefruit League off against their fellow Fort Myers residents, the Minnesota Twins. We all know how super important the results of these games will be over the next month, so you’ll be relieved to know that the Red Sox game away with a 4-3 victory on Friday, almost coughing up the lead in the ninth before closing things out. Extend Alex Cora!

Hector Velazquez starts and pitches well

This game wasn’t televised, unfortunately, so I can’t say with any sort of confidence how Hector Velazquez looked in his start on Friday afternoon, but I can tell you that his line ended up on the pretty side. The righty tossed two scoreless innings with one strikeout and one hit. The strikeout was against Byron Buxton in the first at bat of the game, and the hit was a single off the bat of Jorge Polanco in the second at bat of the game. From there, he got three ground outs and two fly outs. As I wrote earlier on Friday, Velazquez is likely to be a big part of Boston’s depth chart in 2018 even if it’s likely that he’ll start the year in Pawtucket. Obviously we can’t make any big judgements from his first spring training start, but he made it through with a full bill of health and his line at the end of the day was strong. That’ll do!

Some regulars play, but the depth shines on offense

As is the case with most of these games, the top half of the starting lineup was an exciting group of impact players, and the bottom half was full of depth pieces and minor leaguers. Of course, after a few innings it was all depth pieces and minor leaguers. The top four hitters today were Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez, and that group went a combined 0-7. Bogaerts did draw a walk and score a run while he and Ramirez each tallied a strikeout. There was no big standout in this game, but Blake Swihart and Jeremy Barfield had the best days. The former was the only Red Sox hitter to reach base twice, drawing a walk in the second and hitting a double and eventually scoring in the fourth. Swihart also had a triple in the game against Northeastern, so it’s a nice little start for him at the dish. Barfield, meanwhile, gave Boston a lead they would never relinquish with a two-RBI double in the fourth. He’d eventually come in to score on an Ivan De Jesus single. Sam Travis, aka the Grapefruit League Mike Trout, had the team’s only other extra base hit and RBI, which both came on the same hit (a double). Infielder Chad De La Guerra had the other hit in the game, a single.

A lot of minor leaguers finished the game out of the bullpen

As the Red Sox are seemingly getting their big pitchers started slowly in an effort to keep everyone fresh throughout the entire season, there weren’t really any notable names coming in behind Velazquez. Right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who the team picked up towards the end of last season, tossed a couple of scoreless innings. From there, Kyle Hart and Matthew Gorst — both of whom split 2017 between Greenville and Salem — tossed a scoreless inning before Logan Boyd (who also split 2017 between Greenville and Salem) allowed one run on three walks, a hit batsman and no hits in a third of an inning. Daniel McGrath (2017 in Salem) finished off that inning with two quick outs. Trevor Kelley (2017 in Salem and Portland) was likely the most exciting non-Velazquez pitcher to throw on Friday and he tossed a scoreless inning before Josh Smith (Portland and Pawtucket) struggled in the ninth allowing two runs before closing things out. Feel the excitement of spring!

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