The Red Sox were at home on Saturday to take on the Orioles with a lineup full of regulars, including J.D. Martinez in the slugger’s first game of the spring. Things were shaping up for it to be a good day in Fort Myers. Of course, you never know what will happen on any given day with any baseball team, and that is doubly true for a spring training game. So, despite all of the relative excitement, the Red Sox got crushed. There were a few positives on the day, but they were admittedly few and far between.
Xander Bogaerts goes deep
The Red Sox offense was, for the most part, incredibly quiet on Saturday. They managed just one run on the day, and it came thanks to the shortstop. In the fourth inning Xander Bogaerts came up with the bases empty. He got a fastball up in the zone, and like so many times in 2018 he drove it way out to left field for a solo homer. The big swing was his first home run of the spring. Granted, it’s only been three games. Bogaerts is heading into a big season in his career as he’s set to perhaps headline the free agent class in baseball next winter, or at least be near the top of the market. Coming off a breakout year, he is looking at a major payday if he’s able to repeat what he did in 2018.
Other than Bogaerts, the other standout for the Red Sox was Mookie Betts, and even he wasn’t that much of a standout. The 2018 AL MVP had been struggling in a very small sample to start his 2019, still looking for his first hit heading into Saturday’s game. He didn’t have a home run or even an extra base hit, but Betts got off the schneid with a base hit. He also drew a walk in the game. Clearly, there’s no reason to worry about Betts regardless of what happens in the spring, but it’s still better to see him get on base compared to the alternative.
Travis Lakins pitches well
As with the offense, the pitching featured more bad than good. The most high-profile positive among the pitching staff on Saturday was Travis Lakins. The righty tossed a scoreless inning with a strikeout while also allowing a single. He now has five scoreless innings in three outings to start the spring. Lakins is one of the more exciting relievers on the 40-man roster, having dominated in the role after converting early in 2018. He’s all but certain to start the coming year in Triple-A, but with a strong performance he’ll get a chance to not only be part of Boston’s bullpen but also to pitch his way into an important role. Building some confidence in the spring certainly can’t hurt.
The Red Sox also got strong outings from Adam Lau and Brian Ellington. Each tossed a scoreless inning with the former striking out three with one walk and the latter striking out two. Lau spent all of 2018 in Portland, showing solid strikeout stuff but suffering through inconsistent command. Ellington, meanwhile, is a former Marlins lefty who has big stuff but has suffered through major control issues. If Ellington can somehow figure it out with his walks, he can be a weapon for the Red Sox after signing a minor-league deal this past winter.
- J.D. Martinez made his debut in this game, as noted above, but he couldn’t get going. The slugger went 0-2 on the day.
- Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Bobby Dalbec were all hitless in this game as well. All three of those guys had gotten off to hot starts this spring, so it will be interesting to see how each responds to their first truly rough game of 2019.
- Also among the hitless on the afternoon was Christian Vázquez, who is still looking for his first hit of the spring. The catcher has had ten plate appearances this spring without even reaching base. We’re not going to take too much away from this kind of rough start, but with Vázquez being part of the only real position battle in Red Sox camp his performance is going to be more closely evaluated than basically anyone else.
- Colten Brewer got the start in this one, and the righty has been gaining a lot of steam in terms of hype leading up to the start of camp. We have been part of that building intrigue, but he’s struggled a bit to kick off 2019. The righty couldn’t find the zone on Saturday, walking three batters in an inning-plus of work. He was charged with two runs (one earned) and also allowed a pair of singles.
- Also struggling in this game were a pair of minor leaguers in Dedgar Jimenez and Kutter Crawford. The former allowed two runs on five hits in two innings, while the latter allowed four runs on six hit in 1 1⁄3 innings. Jimenez had a big year a couple of seasons ago before the upper minors caught up to his relative lack of stuff. Crawford, meanwhile, is coming off a breakout 2018 and is looking to avoid a similar fate as Jimenez.