Red Sox-Twins Live: J.C. Linares, Ryan Sweeney Push Sox Past Twins 2-1 in Clay Buchholz’s Spring Debut

Clay BuchholzFinal, Red Sox 2-1: That’ll do it. Jose De La Torre shut down the Twins in the ninth inning, and the Red Sox pick up the win to improve their Grapefruit League record to 5-4. The victory also gives Boston the upper hand in its quest for a second straight Mayor’s Cup.

J.C. Linares and Ryan Sweeney provided the offense for the Sox. Linares connected on a solo home run in the second inning to kick off the scoring. Then, after Justin Morneau tied the game at one apiece with a home run of his own in the fourth, Sweeney hit an RBI single to help the Red Sox regain the lead.

Clay Buchholz got the start in this one, and he lasted 1 1/3 innings before manager John Farrell turned to the bullpen. Buchholz didn’t allow a run, but he threw 40 pitches, which Farrell clearly felt was enough for the right-hander in his first start of the spring.

Buchholz gave up a hit, walked two and struck out two, so all in all, it’s hard to complain too much with the results, although the high pitch count in less than two innings is something that will need to change going forward.

After Buchholz exited, the Red Sox turned to Alfredo Aceves, Allen Webster and Jose De La Torre. Aceves gave up the lone run, and he’ll now depart for the World Baseball Classic. Webster was particularly impressive, again showing why the Red Sox are excited about his potential.

The Red Sox will be back in action on Sunday afternoon. They’ll square off with the Yankees for the first time this spring. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET, and all of the action will air live on NESN. Ryan Dempster is scheduled to start for Boston.

Mid 9th, Red Sox 2-1: Andrew Albers took over in the ninth inning, and he worked around a hit to keep this a 2-1 ballgame.

Justin Henry grounded out to first base, and then Christian Vazquez grounded out to second base to give Albers two quick outs. Deven Marrero made sure Albers had to work a little bit, though. He singled into right field, and then advanced to second base on a passed ball.

Albers was able to buckle down and strike out Heiker Meneses to end the inning.

Jose De La Torre, who will play for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, will pitch the ninth inning for Boston.

End 8th, Red Sox 2-1: Allen Webster looked impressive in his three innings of work.

In the eighth inning, the flame-throwing righty finished his afternoon by striking out Chris Herrmann, getting Brandon Boggs to pop out and then whiffing Chris Colabello.

Webster didn’t allow a run in his three innings on the hill. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one. It took a few hitters for the 23-year-old to settle into a groove, but once he did, the Twins didn’t stand much of a chance.

That’s two straight impressive performances for Webster. In his first outing of the spring on Monday, Webster gave up a run on two hits in two innings, but he also struck out four batters in a row at one point. The thing that stands out most, of course, is Webster’s velocity, with the right-hander clocking up in the mid- to high-90s.

Mid 8th, Red Sox 2-1: Deolis Guerra was the guy the Twins turned to in the eighth inning, and he had an easy inning for himself.

Guerra retired Drew Sutton, Mark Hamilton and J.C. Linares in order. Sutton and Hamilton grounded out, while Linares ended the inning with a flyout.

It looks like Allen Webster is coming out for another inning of work.

End 7th, Red Sox 2-1: Allen Webster took the mound for his second inning of work, and he touched 96 mph on the radar gun.

Webster enjoyed a relatively easy inning, working around a Ray Olmedo single to keep the lead intact.

Eduardo Escobar led off the inning by grounding out. Then, after Olmedo’s single, Webster retired Eddie Rosario on a flyout to the new left fielder, Jeremy Hazelbaker.

Brian Dozier flew out to Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field to end the inning.

As I alluded to earlier, this is Bradley’s first action of the spring at a position other than center field. Bradley will likely start the season in the minors, but manager John Farrell hasn’t ruled out the 22-year-old cracking the Opening Day roster. If Bradley was to make the big league club out of camp, he would be expected to play all three outfield positions in a backup role. Perhaps this is Farrell’s way of getting a closer look at what he could potentially have.

The Red Sox made a number of substitutions in the inning. Hazelbaker, Drew Sutton, Justin Henry, Deven Marrero and Derrik Gibson are in. Ryan Sweeney, Will Middlebrooks, Mitch Maier, Jose Iglesias and Jonathan Diaz have come out.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 2-1: It’s time to stretch your aching bones.

Prior to the seventh-inning stretch, Caleb Thielbar made quick work of the Red Sox. Jonathan Diaz grounded out, as did Jackie Bradley Jr., who was batting for the first time in this game.

Ryan Sweeney ended the inning by striking out swinging.

Getting Bradley out has been no easy task this spring. Entering the game, the 22-year-old had reached base safely in 10 of his 16 plate appearances, going 8-for-14 with a double, walk, RBI, four runs and a stolen base in five Grapefruit League games. Not bad for your first big league camp.

End 6th, Red Sox 2-1: The Red Sox made a few substitutions before the inning, but the most notable was on the hill. Hard-throwing Allen Webster came on to pitch, and he escaped a jam without allowing a run in his first inning of work.

Josh Willingham, who had been 0-for-2, started off the inning with a single, and was then lifted for a pinch runner in Brandon Boggs. Chris Colabello followed that up by working a walk, setting up runners at first and second with no outs.

Webster then took a big step in the right direction, as he forced Ryan Doumit to ground into a 4-6-3 double play. Chris Parmelee flew out to end the inning, stranding Boggs at third base.

As mentioned, the Sox made a few subs. Mark Hamilton and Christian Vazquez replaced Lyle Overbay and Dan Butler, respectively.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is also in the game as the right fielder. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a corner outfield position, but we shouldn’t expect any problems.

Mid 6th, Red Sox 2-1: The Red Sox put a couple of runners on in the sixth, which forced Esmerling Vasquez from the game, but the Twins ensured the deficit remained just one run.

J.C. Linares was the first to reach. He hit a one-out single into left field after Lyle Overbay flew out to begin the inning. Two batters after Linares’ hit, Vasquez plunked Dan Butler, which forced the Twins to turn to the bullpen.

Caleb Thielbar was the man called upon, and the left-hander got out of the jam. He forced Jose Iglesias to fly out to right field to end the inning.

Allen Webster, who came over in last season’s blockbuster with the Dodgers, will come on to pitch for the Red Sox in the bottom of  the sixth.

End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Alfredo Aceves stayed in the game for another inning, and it looked as if he began to tire a bit. Fortunately for the Red Sox, an unassisted double play spelled the end of Minnesota’s rally.

Aceves gave up a leadoff single to Pedro Florimon, and then gave up another base knock to Jamey Carroll two batters later. Carroll’s hit allowed Florimon to go from first to third, setting up runners at the corners for the always dangerous Joe Mauer.

Mauer responded by ripping one down to first base. It was right into Lyle Overbay’s mitt, though, and the first baseman stepped on the bag to complete the inning-ending, rally-killing double play.

Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Esmerling Vasquez grabbed the reins for Minnesota in the fifth. He ran into some control problems, and it ended up costing him.

Jose Iglesias grounded out to begin the inning, but Vasquez then walked back-to-back hitters — Jonathan Diaz and Shane Victorino. Ryan Sweeney made Vasquez pay for his wildness, as he looped an RBI single into right field to give the Red Sox the lead.

Will Middlebrooks ended the inning by grounding into a double play. He’s now 0-for-3 in the game.

Jackie Bradley Jr., who has been tearing it up this spring, entered the game in the fifth. He ran for Victorino, so that’ll be the last we see of The Flyin’ Hawaiian before the World Baseball Classic.

End 4th, 1-1: It’s been difficult to watch Justin Morneau the past few years, but he’s healthy and ready to roll in 2013. (At least it looks that way).

Morneau blasted a home run over the right-field fence to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. The solo shot tied the game, and it also reminds us just how dangerous Morneau can be at the dish when healthy.

Morneau, who will turn 32 in May, was one of baseball’s best hitters for a five-year stretch from 2006 to 2010. That stretch, of course, was highlighted by Morneau’s 2006 MVP campaign. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been the same player the past few years, as concussion problems have really derailed his career. Morneau hit .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs in 2012, after playing 81 games and 69 games in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

After Morneau’s home run, Alfredo Aceves struck out Ryan Doumit and Chris Parmelee. Aceves then got Eduardo Escobar to fly out to end the inning.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 1-0: Glen Perkins came on for Minnesota in the fourth, and he took care of business, retiring the Red Sox in order.

Perkins first struck out J.C. Linares, who has provided the game’s only offense to this point via a home run. Mitch Maier then grounded out, and Perkins came back with another strikeout, retiring Dan Butler by way of the K.

Alfredo Aceves will twirl another frame for the Red Sox. They didn’t have any action brewing in the bullpen during the last half inning.

End 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Joe Benson, who struck out against Clay Buchholz to lead off the ballgame, ripped a single off Alfredo Aceves to begin the third inning, but the Twins couldn’t capitalize.

Jamey Carroll grounded into a force out, and Joe Mauer flew out to left fielder Ryan Sweeney. Aceves then struck out the hot-hitting Josh Willingham on a foul tip into the mitt after the Twins outfielder worked the count full.

Aceves is rocking the high socks in this contest, which is always fun, I suppose. We’ll see if he busts out that look for Team Mexico at the WBC.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 1-0: Brian Duensing enjoyed an easy, 1-2-3 inning in the third.

Duensing got Ryan Sweeney to ground out to lead off the inning. Will Middlebrooks then struck out looking for the second out, and Lyle Overbay flew out to left fielder Josh Willingham for the final out.

Alfredo Aceves, who will join Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic after the game, will come back out for Boston.

End 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: The hope was that Clay Buchholz would pitch two innings in his spring training debut, but the right-hander’s workload in the game became too much for manager John Farrell.

Farrell took Buchholz out with one down in the second inning. Buchholz thew 40 pitches in the contest, 22 of which were strikes. He didn’t allow a run, gave up one hit and walked two.

Buchholz was replaced by Alfredo Aceves after walking Chris Parmelee. Aceves was greeted with a hard-hit single off the bat of Eduardo Escobar, which sent Parmelee scampering from first to third.

Aceves got out of the jam, though. He got Pedro Florimon to ground into a 3-6-1 double play. The first baseman, Lyle Overbay, may have been able to catch the throw back to first, but Aceves wasn’t sure and took the throw himself.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: J.C. Linares is quietly putting together a nice spring. The 28-year-old is now 5-for-11 after blasting a home run to lead off the second inning.

Mitch Maier grounded out for the inning’s first out, and catcher Dan Butler singled. Jose Iglesias then came to the plate. Iglesias has actually looked fairly comfortable at the dish early on this spring, but he wouldn’t enjoy any success this time around. Kyle Gibson struck him out for the second out.

Gibson didn’t last much longer, though. He walked second baseman Jonathan Diaz, which apparently put Gibson at his pitch limit for the afternoon, and the Twins turned to Brian Duensing with runners at first and second.

Duensing started off his afternoon by retiring Shane Victorino on a popout. Victorino is now 0-for-10 with three walks in Grapefruit League play.

End 1st, 0-0: Clay Buchholz struck out Joe Benson to begin the inning, but then ran into some trouble. He ultimately kept Minnesota off the scoreboard, though.

Jamey Carroll worked a full count against Buchholz with one out, and the right-hander eventually lost him. With Carroll aboard, Joe Mauer — who has three batting titles to his credit — singled into left field, setting up first and second for Josh Willingham, who has been swinging a very hot bat.

Willingham, who was 8-for-11 this spring before entering the at-bat, lifted a flyball to center field, but it was an easy out for Mitch Maier. Buchholz then went to another full count against Morneau, but the former AL MVP flew out to shallow center field to end the frame.

It was a rather long inning for Buchholz. The righty was forced to work, and he pitched at a very slow pace. All in all, though, it’s hard to complain with the results.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Will Middlebrooks injured his wrist on a checked swing Wednesday night. This time, a checked swing proved to be far less problematic, albeit ineffective.

Shane Victorino led off the inning by striking out against Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who figures to contend for the No. 5 spot in Minnesota’s rotation. Ryan Sweeney then followed up with a base hit over the second-base bag and into center field.

That’s when Middlebrooks, who left Wednesday’s game against the Orioles in the first inning, stepped up to the plate. Middlebrooks was eventually retired on a slow roller to first after trying to check his swing. It was essentially a swinging bunt, as Sweeney moved up to second base on the out.

Sweeney wouldn’t advance beyond second, though, as Gibson struck out Lyle Overbay looking to end the inning.

1:06 p.m.: We’re under way in Fort Myers…

1:05 p.m.: We’re just about to kick things off, but it’ll be interesting to see how Clay Buchholz fares when he takes the mound in the bottom of the first.

Buchholz has thrown a couple of simulated games since suffering a minor hamstring injury during the first week of spring. The right-hander didn’t sound too discouraged at the time of the injury, and said soon after that he didn’t expect to miss much time. However, Buchholz absolutely needs to be in top-of-the-rotation form this season.

Much has been made about the shape that John Lackey is in and the addition of Ryan Dempster, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jon Lester and Buchholz both need to bounce back in order to form a viable 1-2 combo at the top of the rotation. If they don’t, the Red Sox will have virtually no chance of contending in the AL East.

One pitcher who won’t be pitching on Saturday, but who impressed once again on Friday night is Rubby De La Rosa. The 23-year-old has been electric in his two spring training appearances, which has had some wondering whether there’s a chance he could crack the Opening Day roster out of camp. Manager John Farrell quickly dismissed the idea after Friday’s game, though, saying that De La Rosa will begin the season either at Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket. I actually weighed in on the topic earlier today, and you can check that out at the link below.

Click here to read an opinion about Rubby De La Rosa >>

12:47 p.m.: As I mentioned earlier, Saturday’s game kicks off the annual quest for the Mayor’s Cup, which the two teams have battled for during spring training since 1993. The Red Sox and Twins, of course, both play their spring home games in Fort Myers.

The Sox took home the Cup last season, winning four of the teams’ six showdowns. The Twins hold an 11-9 edge overall in the annual series. Minnesota has gone 61-55-1 in the series’ games over the course of the Cup’s 20-year history.

The Sox and Twins will hook up eight times this spring — four times at Hammond Stadium and four times at JetBlue Park. They’ll then square off another seven times during the regular season, with all of the contests coming in May.

10:53 a.m.: John Farrell elected to give Will Middlebrooks an extra day of rest on Friday, but the third baseman will be back in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Twins.

Middlebrooks, who left Wednesday’s game against the Orioles with a wrist injury, has since been cleared for baseball activities, and even took batting practice less than 24 hours after the incident. Still, Farrell took a cautious approach, which is one Red Sox fans should appreciate given Middlebrooks’ importance to the lineup this season and beyond.

Middlebrooks will man his usual position at third base, and he’ll bat third. Shane Victorino, who will leave to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic after Sunday’s game, will lead off and play right field.

Alfredo Aceves is also expected to leave for the WBC on Sunday, but he’ll first pitch for the Red Sox, perhaps immediately following Clay Buchholz, who is making his spring training debut.

The rest of Saturday’s lineups are below.

Red Sox
Shane Victorino, RF
Ryan Sweeney, LF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
J.C. Linares, DH
Mitch Maier, CF
Dan Butler, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Jonathan Diaz, 2B

Clay Buchholz, P

Twins
Joe Benson, CF
Jamey Carroll, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Josh Willingham, LF
Justin Morneau, 1B
Ryan Doumit, DH
Chris Parmaelee, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Pedro Florimon, SS

Kyle Gibson, P

8 a.m. ET: It’s time to begin the quest for everyone’s favorite honor: the Mayor’s Cup.

OK, so the Mayor’s Cup probably doesn’t get too many people jacked and pumped, but the Red Sox and Twins will kick off their battle for Fort Myers supremacy on Saturday at Hammond Stadium.

Clay Buchholz, who suffered a minor hamstring injury early on this spring, will be making his Grapefruit League debut. Buchholz, like fellow starter Jon Lester, enters the 2013 season with a lot to prove, so a successful spring training could help ensure that the right-hander gets off on the right foot.

Buchholz is scheduled to be followed by Alfredo Aceves, Clayton Mortensen, Allen Webster, Jose De La Torre, Anthony Carter and Pedro Beato on Saturday. The Twins are expected to counter with the likes of Kyle Gibson, Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, P.J. Walters and Deolis Guerra.

Will Middlebrooks, who was not in Friday’s lineup because manager John Farrell wanted to give him one more day of rest, could find himself in the starting nine on Saturday.

The action kicks off at 1:05 p.m. It won’t be televised, but have no fear. We’ll have every pitch covered here at NESN.com’s live blog, so don’t go anywhere. If you do, at least be sure to come back often.

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