Just three Grapefruit League games stand between the Boston Red Sox and the 2014 regular season.
The Red Sox, who fell to the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park on Wednesday, will play three straight games against the Minnesota Twins to close out their spring training schedule. The stretch begins with a Thursday night affair in which John Lackey will receive his final tuneup.
Jon Lester got his final spring tuneup in a minor league game Wednesday. That and more are discussed in Thursday’s edition of the notes.
– Lester threw 94 pitches over six innings for Single-A Salem in Fort Myers on Wednesday. The Red Sox decided to have Lester pitch in a minor league game rather than Wednesday’s game against the Orioles because the Sox kick off their season against the O’s on Monday.
Lester allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out seven. Most importantly, the left-hander came away fully healthy.
– Red Sox manager John Farrell is expected to officially name Lester his Opening Day starter Thursday. This will mark Lester’s fourth consecutive Opening Day start — the longest streak for a Red Sox pitcher since Pedro Martinez started seven in a row from 1998 to 2004.
Only five pitchers since 1914 — Martinez, Roger Clemens, Dennis Eckersley, Bill Monbouquette and Mel Parnell — have made four or more Opening Day starts for the Red Sox.
“Any time that you’re given that right or given that honor, like I’ve said every year, it’s a huge honor to be able to do that, especially for this organization,” Lester told reporters. “Each year is different, each year means a little bit more, a little bit less or whatever. The biggest thing is it’s just a huge honor.”
– Lester said there’s no update on his contract talks, though he admitted a Max Scherzer-like offer would be hard to turn down.
– Chris Capuano was lights-out for Single-A Greenville. He struck out 10 over five hitless innings.
– Allen Webster was knocked around in Boston’s major league spring training game, and he’ll head to Triple-A Pawtucket to start the year.
Webster gave up five runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings against the O’s.
– Lefty Rich Hill was released, re-signed to a minor league contract and assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket, according to The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham.
– Outfielder Corey Brown did not opt out of his contract and will begin the year at Triple-A.
– Daniel Nava played six innings in center field during a spring training game with Pawtucket. The Red Sox are trying to get Nava more comfortable there because he and Shane Victorino will be the club’s backup center fielders to begin the season.
– Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks both went deep against Baltimore, which is encouraging for Boston.
– The Red Sox are expected to make most of their roster cuts Thursday, although the center field battle might linger into Friday.
– Dustin Pedroia and his wife are expecting their third baby boy in June, according to ESPN.com’s Gordon Edes.