Red Sox-Twins Live: Clay Buchholz’s Solid Start, Mike Napoli’s Three-Run Homer Highlight Boston’s 12-5 Win

Jacoby EllsburyFinal, Red Sox 12-5: Allen Webster slapped a bow on another impressive performance in the ninth, retiring the Twins in order to secure a 12-5 Red Sox win.

The Red Sox’ offense banged out 16 hits in this one, with the two biggest being a two-run double from Dustin Pedroia and a three-run home run off the bat of Mike Napoli. Those two blows highlighted a five-run fourth inning that really helped the Red Sox seize control.

The Sox ran into some trouble in the bottom half of the fourth, when Joel Hanrahan allowed four runs before being lifted after just a third of an inning. The Sox were able to settle down from there, though, with Koji Uehara and Webster each turning in solid outings.

The biggest takeaway from this one was Buchholz’s solid performance. The right-hander pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out four. Most importantly, he worked at a brisk pace and was much more aggressive than he was in his first start of the spring.

Buchholz was lifted in the second inning of his first start after 40 pitches. On Thursday, the righty threw 38 pitches, 31 of which were strikes. He constantly found himself ahead of hitters, and it led to a very efficient performance.

The Red Sox will be back in action on Friday night. They’ll host the Twins at JetBlue Park in a game that will be televised on NESN. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., and Ryan Dempster will get the start.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 12-5: Manager John Farrell said recently that it’s unlikely Jackie Bradley Jr. will begin the season in the majors. However, the outfielder is still trying to make the skipper’s decision as difficult as possible.

Dan Butler led off the inning with a double, and Bradley brought him in with a line drive into center field. With the knock, Bradley is now 9-for-20 this spring.

J.C. Linares followed up Bradley’s single with a base hit of his own. Brock Holt then hit one back to the pitcher, but Brett Hermsen’s throw to second was off the mark, and Bradley came around with Boston’s 11th run.

Mitch Maier hit what was almost a double play, but shortstop Ray Olmedo’s relay to first wasn’t in time. Linares scored the Red Sox’ 12th and perhaps final run on the play — assuming the Sox can close this one out.

Allen Webster will return to the mound for Boston in the ninth. It’ll be his third inning of work.

End 8th, Red Sox 9-5: Allen Webster pitched a second inning for Boston in the eighth, and Daniel Ortiz made sure the right-hander had to work a little bit more than he did in his first inning of work.

Ortiz kicked off the inning by driving a ball into the right-center field gap. Jackie Bradley Jr. dove, but the ball landed just beyond his outstretched glove, and Ortiz was able to scamper all the way to third base.

Ortiz would score when the next batter, Eric Fryer, hit a sac fly. Webster then got Trevor Plouffe to ground out, and he struck out Jeff Clement swinging to end the inning.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 9-4: The Red Sox scored for the first time since the fourth inning in the eighth. The run came on an RBI single by Heiker Meneses.

Mitch Maier walked with one out, and he then stole second base. Meneses followed up by lining Trevor May’s offering up the middle. The ball ricocheted off second baseman Doug Bernier’s glove and into center field, allowing Maier to come around to score Boston’s ninth run of the game.

The RBI single also spelled the end of May’s afternoon. Brett Hermsen came on to pitch. He hit Jonathan Diaz, but then struck out Mike Carp and got Mark Hamilton to fly out.

End 7th, Red Sox 8-4: Allen Webster came on to pitch the seventh inning, and he shut the Twins down in order.

Ray Olmedo grounded out, and Allen Webster then struck out Joe Benson and Doug Bernier swinging.

Webster has shown fantastic velocity all spring, and he touched 97 mph in the seventh. The most encouraging sign, however, was the nasty slider that Webster struck Bernier out on.

Webster entered the game with five spring training innings in two outings. He allowed one run on four hits in those five innings, and he also gathered six strikeouts.

Manager John Farrell indicated that Webster won’t be held back in terms of innings — like Rubby De La Rosa is. That means Webster could realistically find himself in Boston at some point this season, even if he does start the year at Triple-A Pawtucket as expected.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 8-4: It’s seventh-inning stretch time at Hammond Stadium, and the Red Sox still hold a four-run lead.

Trevor May pitched the seventh for the Twins, and he gave up a walk and a hit before shutting the door on Boston’s bid to extend its lead.

Mike Carp, batting for the first time, grounded out to second base to begin the inning. Mark Hamilton then walked before May bounced back to record another strikeout against Dan Butler.

Jackie Bradley Jr., who continues to draw the praise of his teammates and coaches, reached via a single in his first at-bat of the game. J.C. Linares couldn’t take advantage of the two ducks on the pond, though. He flew out to end the inning.

As you can probably tell, the Red Sox have made plenty of substitutions over the past couple of innings. Here’s a quick glimpse.

In: Mike Carp, Mitch Maier, Mark Hamilton, Heiker Meneses, Jonathan Diaz, Dan Butler, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.C. Linares, Brock Holt

Out: Mike Napoli, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Lavarnway, Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Drew Sutton

End 6th, Red Sox 8-4: Daniel Bard is a wild card this season (hopefully, not literally). But he could significantly alter the makeup of the Boston bullpen.

Bard, whose 2012 season was about as bad as it gets for a pitcher, has looked solid this spring. Bard struck out the side against Northeastern in his first spring outing, and he decided that was fun enough for him to do it against big league competition.

Bard struck out Eduardo Escobar, Jeff Clement and Brandon Boggs in order in the sixth inning. The right-hander touched 95 mph on the radar gun, and his second strikeout came on a nasty, backdoor slider. The third came on an elevated fastball, and Bard threw 14 pitches — nine for strikes — in total.

It’s too early to make too much of Bard’s spring, but his stuff is clearly still there and the control is undoubtedly improving. That’s a dangerous combo for opponents.

I recently touched on Bard’s potential impact in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Feel free to check it out at the link below. (No pressure, of course.)

Click here to read an opinion about Daniel Bard >>

Mid 6th, Red Sox 8-4: P.J. Walters answered Koji Uehara’s quick inning with an easy, 1-2-3 inning of his own.

Walters, working his second inning, struck out Mitch Maier, and then got both Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew to ground out to end the inning.

Daniel Bard will pitch the bottom of the sixth for Boston.

End 5th, Red Sox 8-4: Koji Uehara settled things down for Boston in the fifth.

The Twins got exactly what they needed. After scoring four runs in the fourth, P.J. Walters pitched a relatively quick inning, which is something that generally helps keep momentum going. Uehara was having none of that, though, and he retired the Twins in order.

Uehara first struck out Josh Willingham. Ryan Doumit then grounded out to first base, and Trevor Plouffe grounded out to Drew Sutton at third base to end the inning.

Uehara, unlike Joel Hanrahan, has had a fantastic spring. The veteran right-hander, who was signed to a one-year deal during the offseason, entered the game having thrown three perfect innings in Grapefruit League action. Well, you can add a fourth.

Uehara will be a very important piece of the Red Sox’ bullpen this season. He and Andrew Bailey figure to be the primary setup men for Hanrahan, although the closer’s struggles this spring are a little bit concerning.

Much has been made about the depth of Boston’s pen, but we’ve seen in the past that injuries and ineffectiveness can change things in a hurry. The Sox are already dealing with a couple of injuries, as Franklin Morales’ status is up in the air and Craig Breslow might not be ready for Opening Day.

Click here to read about Craig Breslow’s injury status >>

Mid 5th, Red Sox 8-4: P.J. Walters took over on the mound for Minnesota in the fifth, and while he gave up a walk and a hit, he kept Boston off the scoreboard for the first time in this game.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia earned a leadoff walk, but Daniel Nava grounded into a 4-6-3 double play for the inning’s first two outs. Walters then gave up a single to Ryan Sweeney, who has now reached base safely in all three of his plate appearances, but Drew Sutton struck out swinging to end the inning.

Koji Uehara will come on to pitch for Boston in the home half of the fifth. Mike Carp is replacing Mike Napoli at first base.

End 4th, Red Sox 8-4: It’s been a rocky spring for Joel Hanrahan. The Red Sox closer lasted just a third of an inning in the fourth, and the Twins are back in this game.

The Twins put on a station-to-station baseball clinic in the frame. Josh Willingham walked to kick off Minnesota’s rally, and Ryan Doumit, Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Escobar and Jeff Clement hit four straight singles to give the Twins their first two runs of the game. Doumit, Plouffe and Escobar hit their singles to right field, while Clement decided to keep center fielder Mitch Maier on his toes by driving one up the middle.

The Twins didn’t stop there. Hanrahan struck out Brandon Boggs swinging, and manager John Farrell then elected to make a pitching change. The Sox skipper brought in Chris Carpenter with the bases loaded, and Ray Olmedo greeted the right-hander with a two-run single.

Joe Benson walked to reload the bases, but fortunately for the Sox, they were able to execute a double play to end the inning. Jamey Carroll flew out to right field, and Ryan Sweeney’s relay to the plate was in time to nab Clement.

The damage was certainly done, though. Hanrahan was charged with all four of the runs, and his spring has been something to forget. Hanrahan entered the game with a 6.75 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances, after he gave up three runs (one earned) in two thirds of an inning against the Yankees on Sunday.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 8-0: The Red Sox apparently grew tired of putting up one run an inning, so they posted a five-spot in the fourth.

After Daniel Nava struck out to start the inning, Ryan Sweeney walked and Drew Sutton singled into left field. Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a force out, which put runners at the corners with two outs, and Dustin Pedroia decided to drive them both in.

Pedroia doubled into the gap in left field, which scored both Sweeney and Mitch Maier (who pinch ran for Ellsbury).

It only got worse from there for Caleb Thielbar, who relieved Kevin Correia in the third inning. Thielbar plunked Stephen Drew in the helmet. Fortunately, the Red Sox shortstop was OK and even stayed in the game, but it proved to be another blow to Minnesota.

Mike Napoli followed up the beanball with a home run to left field. The blast is Napoli’s second of the spring, and we’re really seeing why the Red Sox coveted the slugger so much during the offseason. I’d say those hips look OK thus far.

Joel Hanrahan will come on to pitch the fourth for Boston.

2:15 p.m.: For those Red Sox fans not completely sick of Carl Crawford, the Dodgers outfielder once again spoke out about how miserable he was during his time in Boston.

Crawford acknowledged that the blame is on him for not living up to the hype that accompanies a seven-year, $142 million contract, but he really had some choice words for the Boston media.

“That smile turned upside down quick,” Crawford said, according to CBSSports.com. “I think they want to see that in Boston. They love it when you’re miserable. Burying people in the media, they think that makes a person play better. That media was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Hey, Carl, good to see yooooou. This certainly isn’t the first time the Boston media has been blasted by a player, but it’s worth a chuckle when it comes from a player who vastly underperformed and deserved every bit of criticism he received in his two seasons.

Anywho, check out the link below to hear more about Crawford’s remarks.

Click here to read Carl Crawford’s comments >>

End 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: Clay Buchholz’s third inning of work was more like his first inning than his second inning. That’s a good thing for Boston.

Buchholz sat the Twins down in order in the third. He struck out Ray Olmedo and Joe Benson to begin the inning, and then got Jamey Carroll to ground out to second base.

Overall, Buchholz has been very aggressive and very efficient with his pitches, which is an encouraging sign after he struggled with his command a bit in his first spring start.

Buchholz has thrown 38 pitches in this game, which includes two eight-pitch innings. Of those 38 pitches, 31 have gone for strikes. Buchholz has four K’s.

The Red Sox come up looking to score a run for the fourth straight inning.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: Twins starter Kevin Correia reached his pitch limit in the third inning, and he was replaced by Caleb Thielbar. It wasn’t before Correia got the Twins into some trouble, though.

Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a single. Stephen Drew followed up with a flyout, and Mike Napoli then hit a ball that had the potential to be an inning-ending double play. Shortstop Ray Olmedo couldn’t execute the flip to second base, though, and the Sox ended up with runners at first and second.

Ryan Lavarnway ensured the Red Sox would come away from the third inning the same way they came away from the first two: with another run on the scoreboard. Lavarnway singled into center field, which brought Pedroia around to score Boston’s third run of the ballgame.

Napoli tried to go first to third on Lavarnway’s hit, but Benson was able to gun him down. Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended the inning by flying out to right field.

Each of the first five hitters in the Boston order now have a hit, going a combined 5-for-10 with two RBIs and two runs.

End 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: After enjoying a quick and easy first inning, Clay Buchholz ran into some trouble in the second.

Ryan Doumit flew out to Ryan Sweeney in right field for the first out, but that’s when things got more difficult for Buchholz. Trevor Plouffe singled into center field, and then went first to third on a single into center by Eduardo Escobar.

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Buchholz bounced back after the Twins put runners at the corners. He got Jeff Clement to pop out down the first-base line in foul territory, and he then froze Brandon Boggs for a strikeout to end the inning.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 2-0: Daniel Nava provided a two-out single and Ryan Sweeney worked a walk. The Twins helped with the rest.

Ryan Lavarnway grounded out to begin the inning, and Kevin Correia then struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the second out. That’s when Nava delivered his two-out single into right field, which proved to be problematic for Minnesota.

Nava swiped second base after he reached in order to move up into scoring position, and Sweeney then earned his free pass to put runners at first and second. After that, it looked as if the Twins were on the verge of getting out of the inning, as Correia got Drew Sutton to sky one to center field. Twins center fielder Joe Benson lost the ball in the sun, though, and he was unable to make the play.

Benson’s miscue allowed Nava to come around with Boston’s second run, and that’s where we stand.

End 1st, Red Sox 1-0: Clay Buchholz labored through his first start of the spring, but he is already looking more efficient in this one.

Buchholz struck out Joe Benson swinging to begin the game. He then retired Jamey Carroll on a harmless roller to Dustin Pedroia at second, and got the powerful Josh Willingham to fly out to Jacoby Ellsbury in center.

It was a very nice 1-2-3 frame to kick things off for Buchholz. He threw 40 pitches in his 1 1/3 innings on Saturday, which forced manager John Farrell to give him a quick hook. The righty tossed just eight pitches — seven strikes — in the first inning of this game. He also delivered a first-pitch strike to all three batters he faced.

Perhaps Buchholz has been taking notes on Ryan Dempster, who was very efficient in his last spring start. Dempster tossed a first-pitch strike to all nine batters he faced, and 25 of his 28 pitches were strikes.

Click here to read about Dempster’s efficient Sunday start >>

Mid 1st, Red Sox 1-0: Jacoby Ellsbury showed no ill effects of his illness in his first at-bat. The center fielder singled up the middle, and later came around to score the game’s first run.

After Ellsbury singled, Twins starter Kevin Correia tried to pick off the speedster at first base. His attempt was disastrous, though, and Ellsbury scampered up to second on a throwing error.

Dustin Pedroia would ground out to short, which allowed Ellsbury to advance to third base. Ellsbury would then come around to score on a line-drive base hit into right field off the bat of Stephen Drew.

Mike Napoli grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

1:05 p.m.: We’re under way at Hammond Stadium…

12:58 p.m.: While on the topic of retirements, as you’ve probably heard, Ryan Westmoreland opted to end his comeback bid on Wednesday.

Westmoreland, who was once ranked the No. 21 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, has undergone two brain surgeries since 2010. And while he has battled hard in an effort to some day carve out a big league career, the 22-year-old ultimately decided that his medical condition was too much for him to continue playing.

The whole story is a very sad one. Westmoreland showed so much promise in his lone professional season in the Sox organization, and he really looked to be on the fast track to Boston. Not only that, but he became such a likeable guy, especially during his comeback bid, when he showed an amazing amount of perseverance.

Westmoreland is remaining positive in the wake of his retirement, which really speaks to who he is as an individual. It’s also why I wouldn’t bet against him in any situation.

On Wednesday, I wrote a little bit about Westmoreland’s retirement and what the future holds for the former outfielder. Feel free to check it out at the link below.

Click here to read about Westmoreland’s retirement >>

12:50 p.m.: Some interesting news to pass along, via ESPN’s Buster Olney. Olney reports that it’s an “open secret” that Mariano Rivera plans to retire after the 2013 season.

According to Olney, an announcement could come as early as Saturday, which would mean this season would mark a farewell tour of sorts — a la Chipper Jones last season. If that is indeed the case, there’s not a single player in baseball — except Derek Jeter — who is more deserving of that type of treatment.

There are so many debates that baseball fans can have, and most of them end up arriving at the same point: agree to disagree. What really isn’t all that debatable, though, is that Rivera is hands-down the greatest closer of all time.

Rivera’s record 608 saves (and counting) and excellent 2.21 ERA are very impressive. His postseason resume (8-1, 42 saves, 0.70 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, five World Series rings) is even more impressive. What truly amazes me, though, is that he dominated despite essentially featuring one pitch. Oh yeah, and that domination even came during the Steroids Era.

Rivera’s cutter changed the game. It’s not often you see a player bring a revolutionary element to the table, but he did, and his cutter proved to have a tremendous amount of staying power. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Rivera could probably pitch another two or three seasons beyond this year — and be effective — if he really wanted to.

11:27 a.m.: The Red Sox’ lineup card has been posted, and we’ll be getting a mix bag of regulars and bench players.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who had been battling the always difficult “intestinal turmoil,” is back in the lineup. He’ll play his usual role as the team’s center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway will be in the lineup on Thursday, with Salty doing the catching duties while Lavarnway serves as the designated hitter.

We’ll also get another look at Drew Sutton, who continues to battle with Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt for a utility role. He’ll play third and bat ninth.

Will Middlebrooks has fallen victim to the “intestinal turmoil” bug as well, and he has been sent home — hence his omission from the lineup.

The rest of Thursday’s lineups are below.

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Stephen Drew, SS
Mike Napoli, 1B
Ryan Lavarnway, DH
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Daniel Nava, LF
Ryan Sweeney, RF
Drew Sutton, 3B

Clay Buchholz, P

Twins
Joe Benson, CF
Jamey Carroll, 2B
Josh Willingham, LF
Ryan Doumit, C
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Parmelee, DH
Jeff Clement, 1B
Brandon Boggs, RF
Ray Olmedo, SS

Kevin Correia, P

11:15 a.m. ET: The Red Sox took Round 1 of this year’s Mayor’s Cup fight. They’ll send the same starter to the hill for Round 2.

Clay Buchholz, who didn’t allow a run but gave up a hit and walked two during his spring training debut against the Twins last Saturday, will once again toe the rubber against Minnesota on Thursday. Buchholz was actually lifted from his first start in the second inning because he had already thrown 40 pitches, so you can bet the right-hander will look to be more economical this time around.

Thursday’s matinee showdown at Hammond Stadium marks the second of eight contests between the Sox and Twins, who battle annually for Fort Myers supremacy. They’ll once again square off on Friday night, with that game taking place at JetBlue Park.

Buchholz will get the start on Thursday, but Allen Webster, Chris Carpenter, Koji Uehara, Joel Hanrahan and Daniel Bard are also expected to pitch.

Thursday’s action might not be televised, but have no fear. NESN.com will keep you up to speed every pitch of the way. The action kicks off at 1:05 p.m. ET, so don’t go anywhere.

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