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Red Sox 4, Pirates 3: A good day for the ‘pen

And Xander Bogaerts continues a nice start to his spring

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox continued their hot spring on Wednesday with a nice little one-run win over the Pirates. Hector Velazquez didn’t get things off to a great start, but the bullpen picked him up and led the team to victory.

A good day for the bullpen

We’ll get to Velazquez’ aforementioned rough day in a second, but let’s start with a strong day of work for the relievers. The Red Sox sent out a handful of major-league contributors out of the ‘pen in this game, and they all got the job done. It started with a minor leaguer, with Trevor Kelley finishing the third for Velazquez, allowing one single but getting old friend Bryce Brentz to ground into an inning-ending double play. Kelley isn’t a huge name, but he’s an intriguing arm who could gain some buzz this year. From there, it was major leaguers for a few innings. Joe Kelly had the fourth, and he struck out the side in a perfect inning of work. Matt Barnes came out next and he had a perfect inning of his own, though there were only two strikeouts for him. Slacker. Carson Smith came on for the sixth, and he gave up the trio’s only hit on a single off the bat of Brentz, but that was it. He got through it with a strikeout, a ground out and a fly out. Robby Scott had the worst day of major-league relievers, allowing a triple and a walk but still managing to get out of the seventh without a run. Minor leaguers Marcus Walden and Kyle Hart finished things off with a scoreless inning apiece.

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox
This is a wild picture of Hector Velazquez from October that I am somehow just discovering.
Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

A not so good day for Velazquez

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright looking likely to miss the start of the season, there is a rotation spot up for grabs. Velazquez is inherently at a disadvantage in this battle because he has minor-league options and Brian Johnson does not, but with a really impressive spring he could get the nod. Wednesday was not a step in the right direction. His first inning included a double and a walk, but he was able to work around that trouble with three ground outs. He came back strong in the second, with a quick 1-2-3 inning that included one strikeout, but then trouble hit in his third inning of work. He started off with back-to-back hits, a single and a double, to put a quick run on the board. From there, he did get one ground out but then back-to-back hits put two more runs on the board. It’s worth noting that he also allowed two stolen bases in that inning with minor leaguer Austin Rei behind the plate. This isn’t something to be overly worried about, of course, but it certainly doesn’t help the early case for Velazquez being in the Opening Day rotation.

Xander Bogaerts and Brett Netzer lead the offense

The Red Sox lineup did enough to come away with the win on Wednesday, though it wasn’t a wildly impressive day at the plate for the good guys or anything. As a team they put up five hits with four walks to score their four runs. Xander Bogaerts was the major-league highlight by default here with an RBI double to score Rei in the bottom half of the third. Overall, though, it was 2017 third round pick Brett Netzer who narrowly topped Bogaerts with a two-run double in the seventh. Also getting hits in this game were Aneury Tavarez, Rei and minor-league catcher Jhon Nuñez, who also stole a base. The defense made two errors, with one coming from Jeremy Barfield and the other from Ivan De Jesus Jr.