Justin Masterson Very Optimistic About Early Spring Training Progress

Justin Masterson feels like a million bucks.

(Or maybe it’s $9 million.)

Either way, the right-hander came out of his spring training debut Friday feeling very optimistic about where he is physically and mentally going into this season with the Boston Red Sox.

“As we continue to progress, I’m really happy where it’s at,” Masterson told reporters in Fort Myers. “The arm’s doing a really a great job. We’re still a month away. There’s still a lot of throwing to be done.

“Every single time is a checkpoint. You look at it. You’re not really overly caring about results until we’re a few games away from go time. Continue to up the ante, make sure that yeah, I might overthrow a few, but I’ve got to make sure the arm’s working through.”

Masterson tossed two innings in Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Miami Marlins at JetBlue Park. He allowed one unearned run on one hit and two walks. For Masterson, the start was mostly about coming away feeling healthy, as it was something he never really accomplished with the Cleveland Indians or St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.

“There was never really a point where everything was right,” Masterson said Friday, looking back on last season. “I was trying to tough guy through it, which probably isn’t the smartest thing to do. But it’s a great learning experience.”

Masterson dealt with a myriad of injuries last season, which impacted his mechanics, his velocity, his sharpness, and, above all, his results. The 29-year-old, who was traded to St. Louis midway through the season, finished the year with a 7-9 record and a 5.88 ERA in 28 appearances (25 starts).

The Red Sox signed Masterson to a one-year, $9 million contract over the offseason, thinking the former second-round pick has the makings of a bounce-back candidate. Friday’s outing hardly guarantees a return to his 2013 All-Star form, but Masterson will take it.

“Last year was just like, ‘All right. … Please. … Here we go.’ And now it’s like, ‘OK, let’s go do it.’ ” Masterson said. “Mechanically, it may be off, but we can work on that. Those are the better things to try to work on rather than, ‘Will it get up there. Will I have any rotation?’ ”

Masterson figures to join Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Joe Kelly in the Red Sox’s starting rotation this season. It’s not a given he’ll be the impact pitcher he was two years ago, but the outlook certainly is better than it was at any point last season.

Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images

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