After three run-filled losses in two rainy days and a constant shuffling of players which left the Red Sox a bit weary, they welcomed a night game at cross-town Hammond Stadium.
Players could sleep in on Tuesday, spend some time with the family and re-energize before heading over to Hammond and clinching the Mayor's Cup, a top priority each spring.
But an hour into an otherwise beautiful night in Fort Myers, the Sox had lost second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a wrist injury and starter Clay Buchholz to an early trip to the showers, courtesy of a horrid outing that further muddies the waters surrounding the Boston rotation.
The final result was a 7-2 loss to the Twins.
"I think any time we play a game, we want to do well," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, turning his attention to Buchholz. "Whether the wind is blowing out or the ball is carrying, you always want to play the game right and put yourself in the best light so you can. Tonight it gives us something to talk about."
Francona said earlier Tuesday that the last two days were "a blur" and with the players and coaches back together, they can start to make some decisions. But there appeared to be a bit of a hangover from the 48-hour stretch as the ugliness just continued.
That seemed to be the case for Buchholz, who went 10 days without facing major league hitters and appeared unprepared against Minnesota. He gave up an unearned run in the first inning before becoming unglued in the second.
With one out, there was a single by Delmon Young. J.J. Hardy followed with a walk and Nick Punto ripped a base hit to plate one run. Two more singles made it 5-0 and after a fly out, wild pitch and a walk, Buchholz surrendered an RBI single to Jason Kubel.
When the ball was mercifully taken from the lanky Texan, he had this line to show for his efforts: 1 2/3 innings, four hits, six runs, five earned runs, three walks, two strikeouts, three wild pitches, one hit batter.
He did not mean it as an excuse, but perhaps the adjustment to the spring schedule — with Tuesday's random night game thrown in — has taken its toll on Buchholz.
"The last couple of times out I've felt good. Tonight it was a little different getting used to waiting all day to come in," Buchholz said. "I'm usually going to sleep right now, so it was a little bit of a change. But that's how the season is."
The Sox have been outscored 72-45 during their recent 1-9 stretch. While wins and losses do not matter much in Grapefruit League play, the unsightly pitching performances do, and for guys like Buchholz with something to lose, the ramifications can come quick.
"That's not for me to decide," Buchholz said when asked if his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy. "I definitely don't want to come out and give up six runs in two innings. There's definitely going to be some games where things don't go well. … They haven't said anything about the rotation since the first day of camp. I basically go out and pitch like I can and throw the ball well and let the organization decide what they want to do."
Pedroia, obviously, has no concern for his job, but he will have to get X-rays on Wednesday to make sure his left wrist is OK. He was hurt on a play we've come to expect from him, diving hard to his left to snag a hard grounder off the bat of speedy Denard Span.
Francona said there was limited swelling, and there does not seem to be too much concern for the condition of the former MVP.
"I don't think there's a problem," Francona said. "He might be a little sore tomorrow. Hopefully that's all it is. He wasn't going to play tomorrow anyway. But we'll certainly get him checked up on."
Seconds after Francona spoke, a fireworks display began at Hammond Stadium and James Brown's "Living in America" blared from the speakers. For many on hand it was a great end to an enjoyable, sunny day in south Florida.
For the Red Sox, the day was a bit different.
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