The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by playing a pair of baseball games, with half the squad traveling to Bradenton to take on the Pirates and the rest sticking in Fort Myers to host the Rays. The traveling squad had a rough game, falling 8-1 to Pittsburgh with rough showings all around. Meanwhile, the home side were down for much of this game, but a late rally put them ahead and they held on for the win. There were a few notable performances, both good and bad, between the two games, but the biggest news came before the game then in the first inning of the road contest.
Steve Pearce leaves early, David Price scratched
The most important part of Sunday for the Red Sox involved health concerns for a couple of the veterans on the squad, but it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. We’ll start with the injury part of it. Steve Pearce started the road game at first base, but after grounding out in the top of the first he was lifted from the game. Minor leaguer Pedro Castellanos came in as a defensive replacement. Pearce felt some discomfort in his legs on the play, though he didn’t really describe it as any sharp pain. Instead, he just said he didn’t like how it felt. He doesn’t seem overly concerned, which is certainly good news. Pearce should play a big role in the Red Sox lineup this year.
Meanwhile, David Price was originally slated to start the home game against the Rays. He had a tough act to follow after Chris Sale’s domination on Saturday, but it turns out he wouldn’t even get the chance. Price was scratched from the start prior to first pitch due to an illness. Again, this doesn’t seem overly serious and he’ll hopefully be up and ready to go again within the next few days. Alex Cora named Chris Sale the Opening Day starter earlier in the day, and said he’ll announce the rest of the rotation once Price is ready to go. As long as this illness doesn’t linger, the southpaw should be good to go for Game Two.
The catcher battle continues
We don’t really know which two catchers are competing for that second backstop role on the Opening Day roster, or even if one of the catchers has been singled out as someone who will definitely make the team. If there is a two-man battle, though, it seems likely that it’d be between Blake Swihart and Sandy León. Those two each got starts on Sunday, with Swihart staying home and León heading out to play the Pirates. The former continued what has been a good showing this spring, going 2-2 with a pair of singles. He’s now hitting .360 with a .865 OPS. León, meanwhile, kept pace going 2-3 with two singles, an RBI and a strikeout. He’s hitting .231 with a .701 OPS. I really have no idea how this situation is going to play out, and while I doubt it will really be determined by spring performance it’s hard not to watch their respective performances with an eye on how it will affect the competition.
Not a great day for the pitching
With Price getting scratched, there weren’t a whole lot of big names on the mound for the Red Sox in either game on Sunday, but most of the guys who did appear were not great. Brian Johnson got the start in Price’s place, and he struggled with his command. The lefty allowed two runs (one earned) in 2 2⁄3 innings on a couple of singles and a couple of walks. He was hurt by a Xander Bogaerts error (though he didn’t help himself by following the error up with a wild pitch) and he did strike out three batters, but it still wasn’t a great showing. In the road game, Marcus Walden got the start. I projected the righty to make the Opening Day roster, and he rewarded me by having an almost identical line as Johnson’s. He allowed two runs (one earned) in 2 2⁄3 innings on a single, a homer and two walks with two strikeouts. He’s certainly far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster for a second year in a row, but the good news for him is that no one else is really making a great case for themselves.
The road bullpen was rough against the Pirates, though it was entirely from minor-league depth. Daniel McGrath got an out to finish Walden’s third inning before Josh Smith, Domingo Tapia, and Joan Martinez all struggled. On the home side, Heath Hembree didn’t allow a run but he walked three batters while recording only two outs. Durbin Feltman also made another major-league appearance, but after a pair of strikeouts to kick off his inning he allowed a double, walked two and threw a wild pitch.
There were two solid showings from the relievers, though. Colten Brewer has been up and down with his performance all spring as he tries to work his way onto the Opening Day roster. The righty was good in this one, tossing two scoreless innings while allowing just a single and a walk. After he left, Jenrry Mejia came on and tossed a perfect inning with one strikeout. Mejia continues to impress this spring, allowing two runs (both in the same outing) across six innings with seven strikeouts and two walks.
BOX (vs. TB)
BOX (at PIT)