…Well it’s technically Day 3, but since I’m finally back on a decent wifi connection I’m going to upload today’s Red Sox update first (I’ve done so much live tweeting the last few days I have to stop myself from typing “Red Sox” as “#redsox”…check out @Mueller11 on Twitter for those updates and a preview of the upcoming post on the Rays). Got to the park a little earlier today to watch some batting practice and do window shopping in the team store (again, walking away empty handed…the prices there are out of control).
One of the cool things about spring training is that you are generally able to get far closer to the players than you’d be allowed to during the regular season. At Fenway, the gates are not even opened to the public until after the Red Sox have finished batting practice. I don’t know (and would actually love to, so if you know, please comment on the blog) how long this practice dates back; I can’t remember ever seeing the Sox take BP – only the visiting team. There’s my trivia challenge to our loyal readers.
We watched Masterson go through some fairly intensive stretching and sprint drills in the outfield as the team took BP (especially compared to how some of the pitchers and position players were kind of mailing it in in that department, Masterson really seemed to have a sense of purpose to his workout).
Closer to home plate we observed several players being interviewed including Lugo who seems to be getting a good deal of attention in the press for the obvious reason that he’s a highly-paid player who has underperformed and is in jeopardy of losing his spot as the starting short stop for the Boston Red Sox to some snot-nosed punk off the farm (his words…in is head…probably). Once again, he looked fairly solid today defensively. Throws were accurate and crisp though his range wasn’t really challenged on any plays I can recall.
The commish (Gammons) was there, but I didn’t notice him until BP was nearly over. He spent a great deal of time talking with former Sox first base coach Dave Jauss, but if you check out Sports Center tonight, he’ll be filing his own report from The Fort. I’d still put him in my Top 10 Famous People You’d Most Want to Have a Beer With List once that meme makes its way onto Facebook (as it surely will). He’d probably rank just above Dee Snider and just below Bruce Dickinson. And I wish I was kidding about that.
Next we were lucky enough to get access to the practice field and also hear Sox utility man Mark Kotsay answer some questions about his rehab in a discussion moderated by the voice of the Red Sox, Joe Castiglione. Kotsay’s back injury is sidelining him until May at the earliest, but he doesn’t feel there’s much risk associated with that date. He told a few humorous anecdotes, but most of all, he had a lot of positive things to say about playing at Fenway as a visiting player and as a member of the Sox. I hadn’t heard him speak before, and he definitely leaves you with a feeling of, “give me 25 Mike Lowells and Mark Kotsays and I’ll [xyz]“. He definitely fits into that feet on the ground, professional attitude mold Lowell, Mueller, and others have personified in the past. Love guys like that.
In other words, an anti-ManRam.
Also visible from this tent was the practice field where we got to watch some “full contact” BP (i.e. a pitcher throwing major league stuff at a hitter in the cage (neither of whom I could identify by face or number, as well as Varitek stretching it out with some long-toss prior to the game. I always forget how tall he is in person. As I said yesterday, he looks the part, but I’m not that confident we’re going to get much out of him between now and the time he gets presented the rocking chair, a Bronco and a set of white walls.
The big news of the day, of course, was the lineup. In particular, the man DH’ing and batting in the number five position:
Lowell’s return to the lineup for a reported 2 at bats was, without a doubt, the number one buzz item at the ballpark today. Everywhere you went, people were talking about it. And in the minute I spent hanging around the lineup whiteboard to take that photo, every single person who came up to read it remarked on the name written in at number five. Lowell got a huge ovation during his first at bat (which turned out to be pretty ugly with him waving at a pitch away for strike 3). It was pretty clear though that people were just happy he was back and that Red Sox fans really do love Lowell and players like him. Character counts for something (as opposed to being a character). I even got multiple inquiries about Lowell’s day on Twitter during the course of the game. This is what people wanted to hear about.
Lowell was only scheduled for two at bats today according to the Globe, but he came out for a surprise 3rd time in the 7th and after being 0-fer in two fairly rusty-looking plate appearances, he laced a single to left and again, the crowd went wild (and I got a few retweets of my report of the event…my only ones of the day if memory serves). Maybe part of it is an attempt to compensate for a collective guilt about our lusting after Teixeira this offseason. Lowell is one of the keys to the season in my view along with Papi. Can either of them perform close to 2007 levels? My gut says ‘no’ and ‘no’ respectively, but the feeling I get from most Red Sox fans is the fact that they’re both back is good enough. I don’t think they will be the Mike Lowell and David Ortiz of old. I hope to be proven wrong, but my gut tells me we’re banking on contributions we won’t get from those two. It will have to come from elsewhere.
Play of the game was definitely Lowrie trying to leg out an inside the park home run and getting cut down at the plate. I wasn’t fast enough to zoom for the shot, but zooming in on the photo I did get reveals he missed the plate with his hand as he slid past and was tagged.
It’s been an enjoyable three days down at spring training, and I’m definitely ready for the games that count. Updates from my trip to the Rays’ new/retread spring training facility yesterday will be forthcoming later this week.