And the Red Sox never lost again. The hot start to the Grapefruit League continued for Boston as they won their third game in three tries, making it five in a row including the two victories over the college squads. Of course, all of these games have taken place at home, and also it’s spring training. But hey, wins are fun! On Sunday, it was Blake Swihart standing out at the plate and Brian Johnson on the hill.
Blake Swihart continues his hot start
I don’t need to give the spiel about spring training stats not mattering, right? We all know that. Still, it’s hard not to be excited by players performing well in the only situations in which we’ve seen them, particularly when it’s a player whose spring is as important as Swihart’s or someone who was once as exciting as Swihart. The former top prospect is off to a hell of a start this spring, smacking an extra base hit in all of his games so far and posting a .600 batting average in his couple of Grapefruit League games. On Sunday, he hit his first homer of the spring to go with a double and a walk. He also didn’t make an out. This doesn’t really change my opinion on Swihart from where it was a week ago, but again, whatever. If given the choice between this and a boring performance from Swihart, I’ll take this every day.
Brian Johnson leads strong day for pitchers
We learned on Sunday that the Red Sox are acting under the assumption that both Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright will be out to start the year, so the battle for that last rotation spot is very interesting. Brian Johnson is the presumed favorite because of his lack of minor-league options, but a poor spring from him could easily open the door for someone like Hector Velazquez or Roenis Elias. Johnson didn’t falter in his start on Sunday, tossing a couple of scoreless frames with two strikeouts and no runners reaching base. After that, Joe Kelly tossed a perfect inning with a couple of strikeouts and Matt Barnes pitched a scoreless fourth, though he did allow a single and a walk. Carson Smith was on next, but he wasn’t as effective. The righty got two quick outs to start the fifth, but then allowed a single, a stolen base and another single to put Baltimore’s first run on the board. That was all he’d allow before Robby Scott and Marcus Walden came on to combine for three scoreless innings, with the latter striking out five in his two innings of work. Trey Ball closed things out and got into a little bit of trouble with a couple of baserunners, but he did keep Baltimore from scoring.
Jeremy Barfield leads non-Swihart offensive performers
The bad news is that the Red Sox didn’t get much from their big names in this game, with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez going a combined 1-6 with a single (Bogaerts), a walk (Ramirez) and a run scored (Bogaerts). The good news is that the depth options did very well. I already talked about Swihart above, but some other guys had good games too. Jeremy Barfield, a sleeper to get a call-up at some point this summer, followed Swihart’s homer up with a longball of his own, though he also struck out twice. Rusney Castillo didn’t get the start, but he came in later in the game and finished with three singles. Oscar Hernandez, one of the catchers vying for that top spot in Pawtucket, was 2-2 with a double after coming in for Swihart. Aneury Tavarez also tallied a hit of his own while Sam Travis drew a walk and scored a couple of runs. We’d obviously like to see the big names get going, but it’s nice to see strong performances from the players who are looking to make a name for themselves.