Jeremy Hazelbaker got the ninth-inning threat going by lining a double off the center-field wall. Jose Iglesias, who hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning, represented the tying run, but he flew out to left-center for the inning’s second out.
The rally wasn’t completely over with at that point, though. Xander Bogaerts grounded one back up the middle that plated Hazelbaker.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Daniel Nava struck out to end the game, dropping the Red Sox to 0-1 in Grapefruit League play.
The game’s big blow was delivered by Leslie Anderson, who came in as a defensive replacement in the fifth inning. Anderson hit a two-run home run off Oscar Villarreal in the eighth inning that gave the Rays a 4-2 lead at the time.
John Lackey started Saturday’s game for the Sox. He went just the one inning, allowing a run on a hit and walk. Lackey actually loaded the bases to begin the game, but he eventually escaped having suffered just minimal damage. All in all, it was somewhat encouraging considering it was his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Mid 9th, Rays 4-2: Ty Morrison started off the ninth inning with a single back up the middle, but David Ross gunned him down on a stolen base attempt two pitches later.
The caught stealing showed exactly why David Ross is considered one of the game’s best backup catchers. He put the throw right on the money, and Jose Iglesias made a nice — albeit dangerous — play to drop his leg down in front of the bag.
Clayton Mortensen sat down the next two batters to ensure the deficit remained two runs.
Ross, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Jose Iglesias are due up for Boston in the ninth.
End 8th, Rays 4-2: Jackie Bradley Jr., who entered the game earlier as a pinch runner for Jacoby Ellsbury, got his first at-bat in the eighth, and he made it count. Bradley got the inning going with a base hit into right field.
However, the only thing that would come of Bradley’s single was a nice ovation. After Brock Holt flew out, Mitch Maier struck out with Bradley running, which resulted in a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play.
The Red Sox will need some ninth-inning magic in this one. Clayton Mortensen will be tasked with ensuring the Tampa Bay lead stays at one run.
Mid 8th, Rays 4-2: It didn’t take long for the Rays to answer. Leslie Anderson, who entered the game in the fifth, lifted an Oscar Villarreal offering over the wall in right field to give the Rays a 4-2 lead.
Prior to the Anderson homer, Villarreal struck out Thomas Coyle and gave up a single to Jack Cust. Shawn O’Malley then grounded into a force out before Anderson stepped into the box to deliver the big blow.
End 7th, 2-2: Jose Iglesias’ offense has been scrutinized time and time again, but he got a hold of one in the seventh.
Iglesias lifted a game-tying, two-run blast over the Green Monster in left. Iglesias, of course, is known for his glove, but perhaps the weight he’s put on and the work he did in the offseason could lead to better offensive results in 2013.
The home run came off Marquis Flemming, who was in for his second inning of work.
Prior to Iglesias’ bomb, David Ross struck out to begin the inning and Jeremy Hazelbaker worked a free pass. Xander Bogaerts grounded out to second in his first plate appearance of the afternoon.
For the Rays, Brett Nommensen has entered the game in right field for Ben Zobrist. Oscar Villarreal will pitch the eighth inning for Boston.
Mid 7th, Rays 2-0: The two defensive substitutions we should be keeping an eye on both saw action in the seventh.
Daniel Nava first got a chance to flash some leather down at first base. With one out and a runner on first, Nava made a nice snag on a hard-hit groundball. He was able to step on first for the inning’s second out.
Pedro Beato, working his first — and probably only — inning of the day, then got Jason Bourgeois to hit a slow roller down to third base. Bogaerts gobbled it up, and then started a rundown between second and third that ended in the final out of the inning.
Thankfully, that rundown didn’t end the same way that a rundown during Friday’s Sacramento State-UC Riverside game ended.
End 6th, Rays 2-0: The Red Sox threatened to get on the board in the sixth, but a double play erased those hopes.
Jacoby Ellsbury got the threat going with a one-out double that dropped in down the left-field line. Ellsbury was then lifted for a pinch runner in Jackie Bradley Jr. — something that’s kind of ironic when you think of it, considering many people have already tabbed Bradley as Ellsbury’s successor in center field after this season. After a Dustin Pedroia walk, Brock Holt pinch ran for him, but the inning ended when Shane Victorino grounded into a double play.
Mid 6th, Rays 2-0: Nice inning for Anthony Carter. He retired the Rays in order to keep this a 2-0 game.
The Sox, following in the Rays’ footsteps, also made a number of substitutions this past half inning. David Ross replaced Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate, Jeremy Hazelbaker replaced Jonny Gomes in left, Xander Bogaerts replaced Will Middlebrooks at third and Daniel Nava replaced Lyle Overbay at first. Jose Iglesias remained in the game as Boston’s new shortstop.
The most interesting of those moves is certainly the insertion of Bogaerts, who is the Red Sox’ top prospect, and Daniel Nava.
Bogaerts is a shortstop, but this is the second time this spring we’ll be seeing him at third base. Many scouts think we’ll someday see Bogaerts transition to third base full time. The Red Sox have no plans to make that switch now, though, as Bogaerts playing third base is simply in preparation of the World Baseball Classic — at which Bogaerts will man the hot corner.
We’ll also have to keep an eye on Nava, who is seeing his first game action at first base this spring.
End 5th, Rays 2-0: Here comes the tricky part of spring training. Both teams are going to their bench, which means some unfamiliar faces will be getting some work over the next few innings.
Stephen Drew walked to lead off the fifth, but John Farrell opted to insert Jose Iglesias as a pinch runner. Iglesias, who put on a little bit of weight over the offseason, was quickly doubled off first when Will Middlebrooks scorched a line drive to second base.
Lyle Overbay also hit one on the screws, but it ricocheted off the pitcher, Josh Lueke, and rolled over to Shawn O’Malley, who was able to make a play on it for out No. 3.
The Rays made a slew of defensive substitutions before the fifth. Ty Morrison replaced Matt Joyce in left, Thomas Coyle replaced Ryan Roberts at second, Steven Tinoco replaced Sean Rodriguez at third, Leslie Anderson replaced Shelley Duncan at first, Mark Thomas replaced Jose Lobaton behind the plate and Shawn O’Malley replaced Hak-Ju Lee at shortstop.
Got all that?
Mid 5th, Rays 2-0: Jose De La Torre yielded a two-out double to Matt Joyce, but the Rays’ lead stays at two.
De La Torre first retired the leadoff hitter, Ben Zobrist, on a flyout to Shane Victorino in right. The Rays then turned to their bench for the first time, bringing in Jason Bourgeois to pinch hit for Desmond Jennings. Bourgeois hit a slow roller to short, but Stephen Drew charged in and made a nice throw on the run for the inning’s second out.
After the two quick outs, Joyce hit a groundball down the right-field line that just stayed fair. It caromed off the wall to Victorino, who actually looked surprised that Joyce was going to try and stretch the hit into a double. Victorino’s throw was a bit off the mark, though, and Joyce dove in safely head first.
De La Torre got out of the inning by striking out Jack Cust, who has had a rough afternoon. Cust is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and he’s left five men on base.
It’s also worth mentioning that Jose De La Torre will pitch for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
End 4th, Rays 2-0: Jarrod Saltalamacchia almost picked up his first home run of the spring. Instead, his flyball hit off the netting in front of the seats in the wall in left — meaning it was in play — and Salty ended up on second base with a double.
The double came after Josh Lueke, who replaced Felipe Rivero, got Dustin Pedroia to pop out to first and Shane Victorino to ground out to second.
Jonny Gomes grounded out to second base to end the inning. It was a bang-bang play at first.
Jose De La Torre will pitch the fifth inning for the Sox.
Mid 4th, Rays 2-0: Alex Wilson looked very impressive in the fourth. He worked around a Jose Lobaton single to strike out the side.
Wilson struck out both Sean Rodriguez and Shelley Duncan to begin the inning. Lobaton, who walked in his first plate appearance, then singled to left-center. Wilson ensured nothing would come of it, though, as he sat down Hak-Ju Lee by way of the K.
For those unfamiliar, the Red Sox drafted Wilson in the second round of the 2009 MLB draft. He was originally a starter, but he was used primarily as a reliever at Triple-A Pawtucket last season.
Wilson went 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA in 72 2/3 innings over 40 appearances (three starts) with the PawSox in 2012.
End 3rd, Rays 2-0: Will Middlebrooks greeted new Rays pitcher Felipe Rivero with a base hit to right field, and Ryan Sweeney also worked a walk in the inning, but the score remains 2-0.
Middlebrooks’ base hit and Sweeney’s walk sandwiched a Lyle Overbay strikeout. Rivero then got Jacoby Ellsbury to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
Alex Wilson will pitch the fourth inning for the Red Sox.
Mid 3rd, Rays 2-0: Drake Britton got another inning of work, and the Rays were able to push across a run.
Desmond Jennings, who will really need to prove himself this season after a subpar 2012, led off the inning with a double off the JetBlue Green Monster in left. He would come around to score after he took off for third base and Saltalmacchia’s throw sailed into left field.
The errant throw came with Matt Joyce at the dish. Joyce would then work a walk, but he was wiped off the bases when Jack Cust bounced back to Britton, starting a 1-6-3 double play.
Ryan Roberts, who knocked in the Rays’ first run with a first-inning sac fly, hit a dribbler back to the mound to end the inning.
End 2nd, Rays 1-0: The Red Sox sent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew to the plate in the third inning, but they were unable to muster up any offense against Brandon Gomes.
Salty led off the inning with a strikeout, and Gomes then skied one to center. Desmond Jennings was able to win his battle with the sun, though, and he hauled in the frame’s second out.
Drew worked the count to 2-2, but he ended the inning by slicing a flyout to left.
Mid 2nd, Rays 1-0: Drake Britton, a 23-year-old with four years of minor league experience, pitched the second inning for Boston, and he really had to work.
Britton kept the Rays off the scoreboard, but he threw a ton of pitches as a result of falling behind hitters. His velocity was good, as he was hitting 95 mph throughout the inning, but it looked as if he was overthrowing a bit and his pitches were thus sailing high.
Britton first struck out Shelley Duncan and then walked catcher Jose Lobaton, who took second when Britton fired a ball to the backstop while facing Hak-Ju Lee. Lobaton would advance to third on a flyout by Lee, but he’d fail to score after Britton battled back to induce a groundball out off the bat of Ben Zobrist.
End 1st, Rays 1-0: Alex Colome took the ball in the first inning for the Rays, and Jacoby Ellsbury was able to work a leadoff walk. Ellsbury wouldn’t advance beyond first, though, as Colome struck out Dustin Pedroia and then got Shane Victorino to bounce into a 3-6-3 double play.
Pedroia is clearly still shaking off some rust, as he also had a rough day on Thursday against Northeastern. The gritty second baseman struck out and hit into a double play in that one. For Victorino, it’s the first time he’s been retired this spring, as the Flyin’ Hawaiian reached base in each of his two plate appearances against the Huskies on Thursday.
Lackey caught up with NESN’s Jenny Dell after his appearance, and he said he’s just glad to be back out on the field. Lackey, who lost a ton of weight during the offseason, also called the overall state of the Sox this season “exciting.”
Lefty Drake Britton will come on for the Sox in inning No. 2.
Also, just a friendly reminder that the game is being televised on NESN. Why not double up on your Sox coverage if you’re feeling crazy?
For those without access to a TV, the link below will show you what I mean about Lackey losing a ton of weight.
Mid 1st, Rays 1-0: That wasn’t exactly how John Lackey envisioned his first spring training inning of 2013 going, but it could have been much, much worse.
Lackey started off the game by walking Ben Zobrist on four pitches, and Desmond Jennings followed up the free pass by ripping a first-pitch single through the left side. Lackey then loaded the bases with nobody out by plunking Matt Joyce in the upper part of his back.
At that point, it looked disastrous, but Lackey was able to escape with minimal damage.
The veteran righty struck out Jack Cust on three pitches for the inning’s first out. Ryan Roberts then hit a deep fly ball to right field that Shane Victorino was able to corral. It plated a run, but the Sox will certainly exchange a run for an out in that situation.
Lackey escaped the jam by getting Sean Rodriguez to fly out. All in all, it was a rocky start, but Lackey was able to settle down, which is an encouraging sign. He threw 20 pitches in the inning, 10 for strikes.
1:35 p.m.: John Lackey and the Red Sox have taken the field at JetBlue Park. And away we go…
1:14 p.m.: We’ll be coming up on game time here soon, so now seems like an appropriate time to pass along some more pregame notes.
Clay Buchholz, who has been dealing with a hamstring issue, threw 37 pitches in two simulated innings on Saturday morning, according to CSNNE.com. Buchholz reportedly pitched to J.C. Linares and Mike Carp, tossing 21 pitches in the first inning and 16 in the second.
If Buchholz feels comfortable following Saturday’s session, it’s likely that he’ll be plugged into Boston’s spring rotation moving forward. He could be on tap for a start against the Pirates on Thursday, although we’ll have to wait and see how Farrell wants to approach the situation.
Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener marks the first of six spring meetings between the Sox and Rays. The Red Sox will play 35 games in all against major league opponents over the next 36 days, and they’ll also play Team Puerto Rico on March 5.
In addition to Lackey, here are the hurlers expected to see action for Boston on Saturday: Drake Britton, Pedro Beato, Anthony Carter, Jose De La Torre, Oscar Villarreal, Alex Wilson, Terry Doyle, Steven Wright and Clayton Mortensen.
Also, before the Red Sox kick off their Grapefruit League slate, I might as well pass along the following link from last week, which looks at Boston’s top spring training storylines.
10:53 a.m.: We’re less than three hours away from the game’s first pitch, and the lineup cards are in. Each team will be rolling out a number of their starters for the Saturday matinee, so it’ll be a good chance to get an early — very early — glance at how these two AL East foes stack up.
The Red Sox’ top three will consist of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino. That’s the same top three that manager John Farrell rolled out against Northeastern on Thursday. In that game, Victorino reached based in each of his two plate appearances, and he also scored a run. The Flyin’ Hawaiian will represent Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and he said last week that he expects to leave the Sox on March 3 to join the U.S. team’s camp in Arizona.
David Ortiz and Mike Napoli will once again be out of the Boston lineup as they continue to work their way back to game shape. Ortiz is battling his way back from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for a good portion of last season, while Napoli is working through a hip condition. Each is expected to run the bases soon, according to Farrell, which is the next step in their progression.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be Lackey’s battery mate in the right-hander’s first start of the spring. He’ll bat cleanup.
Saturday’s complete lineups are below.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Shane Victorino, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Jonny Gomes, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Ryan Sweeney, DH
John Lackey, P
Ben Zobrist, RF
Desmond Jennings, CF
Matt Joyce, LF
Jack Cust, DH
Ryan Roberts, 2B
Sean Rodriguez, 3B
Shelley Duncan, 1B
Jose Lobaton, C
Hak-Ju Lee, SS
Alex Colome, P
8 a.m. ET: John Lackey will hope to clear another hurdle on Saturday, when the Red Sox play host to the Rays at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
Lackey missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he’ll return to the mound on Saturday as Boston kicks off its 2013 Grapefruit League slate. The right-hander looks to be in great shape this spring, and he’s as confident as ever that he can change the negative reputation he’s gained among many Red Sox fans since signing a lucrative deal prior to the 2010 season.
It’s time for Lackey to really get down to work, and although he’s only scheduled to pitch one inning, Saturday’s start could be a huge step in terms of recovering mentally from a lost 2012.
“Typically, coming back from Tommy John, the last hurdle is that mental hurdle,” manager John Farrell told reporters Friday. “Part of it is the aggressiveness to which you pitch, the anticipated results and then ultimately, how do you feel every fifth day over the course of a month. But [Lackey’s] starting from a good place right now. [Saturday is] a significant day for him, and certainly for us as we form this rotation going through camp.”
Farrell said that Lackey will be on a five-day rotation for the rest of the spring, and the righty will add 15-18 pitches per outing — or one additional inning — as we inch toward Opening Day.
The Red Sox took care of business against their collegiate foes on Thursday, besting Northeastern and Boston College during their twinbill. The Sox will now get things going against major league competition, though, and fortunately, NESN has you covered every step of the way.
Saturday’s game will be televised live on NESN, beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. Be sure to tune in and follow along with NESN.com’s live blog throughout the day for additional commentary, analysis and maybe even a dash of randomness from time to time.