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Red Sox 8, Rays 0: That’s more like it

Most everything goes well for Boston on Thursday.

MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I said before the game that it was about time the Red Sox got things rolling, and while results this time of year don’t really matter it still would be nice to get a little bit of a roll going before the start of the regular season. Apparently my advice worked, because almost everything went well for Boston on Thursday. The offense was helped out by some rough defense on the other side, but they had good swings all night long. The pitching, meanwhile, featured almost entirely pitchers who are auditioning for roles in 2019. The lone exception to that was Matt Barnes, who obviously has a spot locked up. There’s little to complain about here.

All eyes on the pitching

As I said, Barnes was the only pitcher to appear in Thursday’s game that isn’t competing for a roster spot in camp. The righty is the favorite to close games for Boston in 2019, but he’s had some rough outings this spring as he tries to find his consistency. After his last appearance he mentioned he was tipping some pitches but fixed the issue midway through the outing. He certainly looked fixed here, striking out all three batters he faced.

Other that Barnes, it was more of a mixed bag than the zero runs allowed would suggest, but it was mostly good. Hector Velázquez got the start, and the righty had been going through an awful spring prior to this game. He wasn’t perfect in his two innings of work, allowing a double in the first and a single with a wild pitch in the second, but it was a step in the right direction. Darwinzon Hernandez was next up, and he’s been getting some buzz to start the year in the majors. This was a good test for him coming in for the third inning while the major leaguers were still out there, and we saw why the team may not want to push him. The southpaw tossed a scoreless inning, but not before he loaded the bases with three walks. He has to work on finding a little more consistency, never mind the fact that they may still want to develop him as a starter. I certainly wouldn’t have him up for Opening Day, and I’d be surprised if the Red Sox decide to.

After Barnes’ appearance, Tyler Thornburg got a chance to rebound after what’s been a rough spring. The righty has a built-in advantage for the Opening Day roster given that he’s out of options, but he has not made a case for himself at any point in a Red Sox uniform. He had a very similar outing as Hernandez, walking the bases loaded but working around it and getting through a scoreless inning. I think Thornburg makes the roster, but if he has a couple bad outings I would think long and hard about pulling him off the roster when Pedroia comes back from the injured list.

Corey Brewer and Marcus Walden were the next two up, and by spring performance only (which is not how these things should be judged) they have a good case for the Opening Day roster. That continued on Thursday as each struck out three and allowed one hit with zero runs in their outings, though Brewer did it in one inning while Walden did it in two. The night ended with Durbin Feltman tossing a perfect ninth. Feltman is not a serious Opening Day roster candidate, but he is showing little reason for them not to be super aggressive with him.

Other Notes

  • The pitching dominated the day, but the offense had some nice showings, too. J.D. Martinez had a double and a long fly out as his swing seems to be coming along. Rafael Devers also contributed a big triple.
  • Blake Swihart got the start behind the plate amid rumors Sandy León was being discussed in trade talks. For what it’s worth, León did come in for the second half of the night. Swihart had a solid day with a base hit and a run scored, but he also struggled a bit keeping the ball in front of him behind the plate. It wasn’t entirely his fault as some of the pitchers really struggled with control, but this is a skill worth watching as spring continues.
  • Dustin Pedroia looked good, going 2-3 with a run and an RBI.