Red Sox Live Blog: Josh Beckett Solid, But Rays Bats Break Out

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Red Sox Live Blog: Josh Beckett Solid, But Rays Bats Break Out
Postgame, Rays 9-3: Players and coaches insist that the results of spring training games do not matter. But wouldn't it be nice to see the Sox beat the Rays just once?

Tampa Bay is now 5-0 against Boston this spring and has outscored the Sox 41-22.

With this one lasting nearly four hours and a rematch set for Tuesday afternoon in Port Charlotte, Boston won't have to wait too long to get one back.

The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. and top pitching prospect Casey Kelly will get the start for the Sox. Maybe he can silence these Tampa Bay bats.

Final, Rays 9-3: Boston goes down quietly in the bottom of the ninth — Tug Hulett strikes out swinging against Tampa's Mike Ekstrom to end it — and the Rays continue their spring dominance of the Sox.

Mid 9th, Rays 9-3: Fernando Cabrera whiffs the first batter on a nasty slider, then gets Alvin Colina on another breaking ball down and away. Cabrera then walks Sean Rodriguez before getting big Matt Fields looking on a generously-called high strike three.

Cabrera may not be one of the middle-reliever favorites to make the parent club heading north, but he did hit 91 on the radar gun and moved his slider nicely all over the plate.

And despite a walk and an apparent balk — I think the home-plate umpire just got lost in Cabrera's crazy pre-pitch motion — he did strike out the side. A solid inning for the 28-year-old righty.

End 8th, Rays 9-3: The Sox scrape and claw to get two in the eighth. Fernando Cabrera will finish this one out on the mound.

The combined line for Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree:

1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K

Not good.

Mid 8th, Rays 9-1: The Sox have brought in two lefty candidates to take a spot in the bullpen, but neither has looked very good so far.

At the very least, the club is expecting Alan Embree to need some time to get going since his spring training has been abbreviated, but he loads them up in the eighth and gives up a two-run single to make it 7-1.

Another run came in on Boston's fourth error of the game, a bobble by third baseman Tug Hulett. Still another was scored when Fernando Cabrera was greeted with an RBI single by Rashad Eldridge.

Anyone seen Brian Shouse lately?

So bad. So bad. So bad.

End 7th, Rays 5-1: The Sox got on the board in the seventh but are three outs away from falling to 0-5 against Tampa Bay this spring.

Josh Beckett took a little while to get to the news conference so we missed some of the action, but now we get to see if Alan Embree can have better results than his first outing the other day.

As for Beckett, he had nothing to say on his contract situation, but said all the right things when asked about how he feels. His mind if now on the Yankees.

9:18 p.m.: Off to hear from Josh Beckett, whose line looked like this:

6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K.

He threw 61 of his 94 pitches for strikes.

End 6th, Rays 3-0: By my count the Sox are 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Mike Cameron ended the sixth by grounding into a double play.

Scott Schoeneweis is about to make his Red Sox debut. Think I spelled it right.

Mid 6th, Rays 3-0: The official scorer is getting a workout in this one.

After a walk and a double puts Rays on second and third with no outs, Willy Aybar grounds to first. Kevin Youkilis tags the bag and then finds B.J. Upton straying off second, likely expecting Evan Longoria on third to break for home.

Youkilis gets a rare unassisted double play when he runs over to tag Upton. Josh Beckett gets his eighth strikeout to get out of it.

Strange night in Fort Myers.

End 5th, Rays 3-0: Although everyone is just working out the kinks and refining things for the regular season, there are always moments in spring training you can imagine causing massive groans if they took place in Fenway.

The fifth inning as a whole was a massive groan-worthy affair.

The Sox had runners on the corners with no outs. J.D. Drew struck out looking (groan). Kevin Youkilis struck out swinging (groan).

Then, Dustin Pedroia broke for second but stopped short of the bag and retreated. Marco Scutaro, who may have been supposed to break if and when Pedroia slid, was caught off third and thrown out.

(Groan mixed with other stuff.)

Mid 5th, Rays 3-0: Josh Beckett has not pitched horribly, but the end result might not look very good. He hurt his own cause in the fifth.

After striking out the first two batters of the inning to extend his streak of consecutive punch-outs to five, Beckett fielded a tapper by catcher Nevin Ashley and attempted to throw to first while slipping to the ground.

The throw wasn't even close and rolled all the way down the line in right. Ashley rambled all the way to third and came in with an unearned run when Jason Bartlett singled.

The first concern when Beckett went down and threw awkwardly was that he might hurt himself. He looks fine though and battled back to strike out Carl Crawford.

End 4th, Rays 2-0: Jeff Niemann is cruising right along and we're already into the fifth at City of Palms Park.

Niemann has made Mike Cameron look bad twice now.

Cameron has just tied David Ortiz for the team lead in strikeouts with 12. The new center fielder will have some nice moments this year, but get used to a few of those.

Mid 4th, Rays 2-0: Just an observation since this is my first night game at City of Palms Park. They need more lights!

The outfield seems exceptionally dark, as does the area around the dugouts. We've already seen a couple of fly balls get lost for a second before they get tracked down.

Oh by the way, Josh Beckett struck out the side in the fourth.

End 3rd, Rays 2-0: Mike Lowell had a chance for his first Grapefruit League RBI after a double by Kevin Youkilis and an error put runners on the corners.

Lowell fanned at a curveball and the Sox strand two.

For those of you who just watched me trip over my words in the NESN booth, no, my hair will not grow back if I stop shaving it.

Mid 3rd, Rays 2-0: Josh Beckett gives up a wind-aided opposite-field home run to Nevin Ashley to lead off the third inning.

The breeze blowing out to right is pretty ferocious. Ashley's shot landed just to the left of the right field bleachers.

More importantly, I'm heading to the NESN booth to spend the next half inning with Don and Jerry. Turn up the volume!

Will be back to catch up in the fourth.

End 2nd, Rays 1-0: After a few days off to rest his bruised leg, Mike Lowell manages to single to lead off the second.

It is just the second hit in 11 at-bats for Lowell. The questions keeps coming up as to whether he will have enough playing time to be ready. I think with a good week this week he will be fine heading north and playing a limited role.

Lowell moved up 90 feet on a single by Bill Hall before Marco Scutaro grounded out to end it.

Mid 2nd, Rays 1-0: Josh Beckett was having a few issues with his breaking ball early in the second. A couple sailed high on him while facing Pat Burrell, one of them reaching the backstop.

Burrell doubled later in the at-bat (not exactly sure what the pitch was) and Hank Blalock flied to the wall in right.

Then, perhaps getting a handle on things, Beckett fed scorching Sean Rodriguez a slew of slow stuff to get him swinging.

End 1st, Rays 1-0: Jeff Niemann is a name Red Sox fans will become more familiar with.

He had a breakout season for the Rays last year and gives them a very capable No. 4 starter with the stuff to be featured higher than that on other teams.

However, Niemann struggled a tad in the first. After getting the first two outs of the inning he gives up a single to J.D. Drew — just the sixth hit in 33 at-bats this spring for the Boston right fielder — and walks Kevin Youkilis.

David Ortiz grounds out to end it.

Mid 1st, Rays 1-0: The first inning goes by in a heartbeat but Evan Longoria manages to sneak in a bomb over the wall in left for his fourth home run of the spring.

Longoria jumped on the first offering from Josh Beckett. On the previous pitch, Beckett had pounced from the mound to barehand a Carl Crawford bunt attempt and throw out the Rays speedster.

By the way, Longoria had two home runs here the other day and both came on the first pitch.

6:45 p.m.: The jersey sighting of the day: A No. 32 red Red Sox shirt with "D-Lowe" on the back in crooked letters.

6:30 p.m.: Here is the lineup the Rays will throw out there against Josh Beckett:

Jason Bartlett, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Evan Longoria, 3B
B.J. Upton, CF
Willy Aybar, DH
Pat Burrell, RF
Hank Blalock, 1B
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Nevin Ashley, C

6:20 p.m.: A few other quick notes from the desk of Terry Francona, who has a lot on his hands as he attempts to make decisions this week.

Mike Lowell will get up to six innings as long as everything goes OK. Francona still has not said that Lowell's limited spring means he will need to start the season on the disabled list. Lowell's role as a part-time player likely means that would not be the case, but the club really wants to get him into consecutive games at some point.

"I think he was pretty excited about it," Francona on Lowell's originally planned back-to-back days, which were cut short when he fouled a pitch off his left leg Friday. "Then that fell through."

Lowell will play Wednesday in Sarasota against Baltimore.

Outfielder Jeremy Hermida is not ready to return from a tight right hamstring. He has been on the bike and taken some cuts but that's about it. Francona insisted that the club doesn't feel as if this will be a long-term issue.

With today's transactions, Francona hinted he has just about finalized things in his head with his position players. Although nothing has been made official, every player has been spoken to.

As for his bullpen that remains another thing.

"I don't know that that's going to happen," Francona said when asked if his pitching staff will be finalized soon.

There are too many variables right now, including how many pitchers to carry north. Alan Embree, who is scheduled to pitch Monday, has yet to really get any significant game action. Scott Schoeneweis, also slated to go Monday, will be making his debut with the team.

5:17 p.m.: The latest news to hit Fort Myers is that minor league pitcher Junichi Tazawa has been sent to Dr. James Andrews to have his right elbow examined.

Tazawa had given up five home runs in seven innings this spring. The team offered no further information. Tazawa's last outing March 22 resulted in him giving up three home runs in an inning against Tampa Bay.

3:48 p.m.: It's been a busy afternoon here in Fort Myers. We saw Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boof Bonser and Manny Delcarmen throw in a simulated game at the minor league complex and have just learned of a series of transactions made by the Red Sox.

The Sox have optioned infielder Kevin Frandsen and catcher Dusty Brown to Triple-A Pawtucket, and reassigned infielder Jorge Jimenez and catcher Gustavo Molina to the minor league camp.

We will have comments from the trio of pitchers that threw this afternoon in a bit. In the meantime, here is the Red Sox lineup:

Marco Scutaro, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
J.D. Drew, RF
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Lowell, 3B
Jason Varitek, C
Mike Cameron, CF
Bill Hall, LF

8:01 a.m.: The Red Sox will try for the fifth time this spring to get a win against the Tampa Bay Rays when the teams meet at City of Palms Park.

NESN will televise the final night game of the Grapefruit League schedule. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.

The Rays have outscored the Sox 32-19 in taking the first four meetings. Josh Beckett will try to turn that around for Boston in his last bit of preparation before pitching in the opener against New York on Sunday.

Jeff Niemann is on the mound for Tampa Bay.

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