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Red Sox Spring Training (3/7-3/13): Roster Trimmed, Gonzalez Debuts Saturday

Lars Anderson rounds the bases after his home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during Sunday's Spring Training game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Welcome back to Sports of Boston’s continuing coverage of the Red Sox’s Spring Training! Opening Day is less than four weeks away, and we’ll be be right there every day leading up to it. Nine games in seven days is a lot of games, but we’ve got recaps for every one of them. But even before we take on the epic task of summarizing nine preseason games, Sports of Boston is happy to announce the return of Adrian Gonzalez! The biggest acquisition of the off-season, Gonzalez returned to the starting lineup Saturday against the Florida Marlins. In two at-bats, Gonzalez went 1-1 with a single to left and a sacrifice fly.

The Red Sox also announced Saturday that 10 Red Sox were re-assigned to minor league camp. In addition, pitcher Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Oscar Tejeda were optioned to double-A Portland. In two Spring Training starts, Pimentel was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA. Tejeda batted .375 in 13 games, driving in eight while striking out six times. It’s unlikely Pimentel will be at Fenway anytime soon, but Tejeda might find a place as a utility infielder in the next couple of years.

Now then, on to the games!

Red Sox 6, Orioles 5

John Lackey had a stellar Monday afternoon, limiting the Baltimore Orioles to a single hit over four innings.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the first on four hits, including RBI singles by Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew. But the Orioles scored five runs off the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth through eighth innings, including two on three hits off Dan Wheeler in the fifth, and the game went to the ninth tied 5-5. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, third basemen Yamaico Navarro drove in Tejeda for the winning run.

Dustin Pedroia went 2-3 with a double against Baltimore. Tony Pena Jr. got the win, pitching a scoreless ninth despite giving up two hits and a walk.

Red Sox 3, Astros 2

The Red Sox rotation, partially depleted last week by minor ailments and injuries, welcomed back Josh Beckett Tuesday against the Houston Astros. In 3 2/3 innings, Beckett gave up just one run on three hits and a walk. He struck out four.

At the plate, leadoff center fielder Ryan Kalish went 3-4, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 2-2. But the most damage came at the hands of third baseman Nate Spears, who drove in two, including the winning run in the eighth.

The win went to non-roster invitee Dennys Reyes, who allowed just a walk while striking out one in a scoreless eighth. Another non-roster invitee, Matt Fox, struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth for the save.

Red Sox 8, Cardinals 7

Let it be known: the man of broken ribs is back. In his strongest Spring Training game yet, Jacoby Ellsbury led Wednesday’s split-squad Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals. Ellsbury went 3-4, scoring and driving in a run, and also stealing a base. Non-roster catcher Ryan Lavarnway also showed some pop, going 2-2 with a run and three RBIs. Lavarnway’s two-run home run in the eighth capped a four-run inning that turned a 7-4 deficit into an 8-7 lead.

Starter Pimentel struggled, giving up two earned runs on five hits and a walk in just 1 2/3 innings. The win went to Clevelan Santeliz, who pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh, giving up two hits and striking out three. Kyle Fernandes picked up the save, giving up a hit and walk while striking one out in the ninth.

Red Sox 2, Orioles 1

The Red Sox continued their preseason dominance (now 2-0-1) of the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, needing only half a roster and an ace to beat them. Clay Buchholz started and went four innings, giving up just four hits while striking out three. In nine Spring Training innings this year, Buchholz has yet to give up an earned run.

Drew went 2-2 Wednesday night with a solo home run in the second. The Red Sox won when Navarro was hit on the wrist with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Navarro suffered a contusion.

The win went to Pena Jr., who pitched a scoreless top of the ninth.

The Orioles were down 1-0 heading into the top of the eighth, but tied it up when non-roster invitee Randy Williams gave up a triple and a sacrifice fly.

Rays 8, Red Sox 6

It was another tough start for Daisuke Matsuzaka. After giving up five earned runs to the Tampa Bay Rays on five hits (including a home run) and two walks in 3 2/3 innings on Thursday, his ERA currently sits at 11.42. The Red Sox almost overcame the start, however, going up 6-5 in the ninth inning on two solo home runs, including one by Tejeda. But Alfredo Aceves couldn’t hold the game, giving up a game-tying double and then a two-run home run to Rays catcher Robinson Chirinos in the ninth.

Spears had another strong game for the Red Sox, going 3-4 with a triple and a stolen base, driving in two and scoring once. Jose Iglesias went 2-2.

In his first game against his former team, Carl Crawford went 1-3 with an infield single. He also made a pretty diving catch in left field.

After struggling in his first few preseason innings, Daniel Bard bounced back with a perfect sixth inning, striking out two.

Twins 3, Red Sox 2

After missing a start due to the flu, Jon Lester returned Friday for a split-squad afternoon game against the Minnesota Twins. Lester continued to impress this preseason, this time striking out five in four scoreless innings.

Lester handed the ball to Jonathan Papelbon in the fifth, but Papelbon could not hold the 2-0 Boston lead. Papelbon gave up three runs on a hit and three walks, and the Red Sox did not score again.

Ellsbury had another strong afternoon from the leadoff spot, going 2-3. David Ortiz also went 2-3, driving in one of Boston’s two runs, both of which came in the third inning. Navarro drove in the other.

Papelbon’s performance marred an otherwise strong pitching day from the Boston bullpen. The Twins scored three runs in the fifth inning, but none before or after. Hideki Okajima and Tim Wakefield scattered two hits and a walk over three scoreless innings.

Red Sox 9, Astros 3

The second half of the split-squad Red Sox fared far better Friday against the Houston Astros. The Red Sox scored five runs in the first two innings, then piled on four more from the fourth through the eighth.

Pedroia led the charge, hitting a double and triple, reaching on a walk, driving in two and scoring once. Daniel Nava, playing designated hitter, also had two hits and a walk, along with an RBI. Catcher Mark Wagner went 2-2, both triples, driving in one and scoring twice. Marco Scutaro scored once and drove in two from the leadoff spot.

The win went to Kyle Weiland, who gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings on four hits and a walk. More impressive was the bullpen, which, led by Wheeler (1 1/3 innings) and Michael Bowden (2 innings), did not allow an earned run.

Red Sox 9, Marlins 2

The Red Sox welcomed Gonzalez back Saturday against the Florida Marlins with their most lopsided Grapefruit League victory this preseason. The Red Sox’ offense poured it on Saturday, notching 16 hits to go with their nine runs.

For Ellsbury, everything came up threes: Three at-bats, three hits (two doubles), three RBIs, three runs scored. One of his hits was a home run.

Pedroia also went 3-3 Saturday and drove in one. Ortiz went 2-3, but both hits were doubles.

Lackey followed up his solid outing Monday with another on Saturday. In 4 1/3 innings, Lackey gave up six hits but just one run. He struck out six and did not walk anyone. Williams continued Lackey’s domination, striking out three in 1 2/3 perfect innings.

Pirates 9, Red Sox 4

Through the first four innings of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Beckett was cruising. He gave up a solo home run in the second, but allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out five. In the fifth, it all went to hell. Beckett gave up a solo home run, a double, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch to the first four batters of the fifth inning, then was lifted for Scott Atchison. But Atchison gave up four hits of his own in the fifth inning, and all three base runners Beckett left scored and were charged to him.

Beckett finished the game having been charged with five earned runs on four hits (two home runs), two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Atchison was charged with two runs of his own.

The lone bright spot from the mound was Bard, who struck out two in a perfect sixth inning.

At the plate, first baseman Lars Anderson went 2-3 with a solo home run. He also singled and scored. Leading off in right field, Mike Cameron doubled in two in the third for a 2-1 lead.

Final Thoughts

Six wins, three losses this week. Overall record: 9-8-1. Nice to see the Red Sox on the positive side of .500.

This was a fantastic week for the starting rotation. Pitchers who will likely be on the Opening Day major-league roster started seven of the nine games. In five of them, the starters allowed one run or fewer. And Beckett’s bad outing was solid through the first four innings. So there were really only 1.5 bad starts by a major-league starter this week.

Lackey is clearly having the best preseason of any Boston player. In three starts (10 1/3 innings), Lackey has an ERA of 1.74. He’s allowed just two earned runs, hasn’t walked anybody and has struck out four.

The same can’t be said for Matsuzaka, a player who is fast running out of excuses. In 2009, Matsuzaka blamed his regular-season struggles on the World Baseball Classic disrupting his preseason development. He blamed his 2010 struggles on injuries, some of which he suffered during Spring Training (he only pitched six preseason innings in 2010). This year, Matsuzaka is neither injured nor playing in an extra-curricular tournament. Should his preseason struggles continue during the regular season, what will he blame it on this time?

The best hitter this week was definitely Ellsbury, with eight hits. Ellsbury leads the Red Sox with 11 hits and eight runs this preseason, which means he’s doing the two things a leadoff hitter is supposed to do: get on base (second among Red Sox with 10+ at-bats with an OBP of .462) and score.

Great to see Pedroia back and hitting with pop. Three of his seven hits this week were for extra bases. Suddenly, that Red Sox’ lineup is looking awfully lengthy.

Four weeks to go, and the team is definitely rounding into shape. More players will be re-assigned, starts will go longer, players will get more at-bats. As long as they stay healthy, the Red Sox should be ready to go by April 1.

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