I’m down in Ft. Myers (Cape Coral actually) on a family get-together and managed to persuade a couple of my relatives to go over to the minor league complex for the beginning of minor league spring training games (today, 17 March, it was Pawtucket and Portland against their Twins counterparts). Scheduled start was 1 PM, but when we arrived at 1:15 they’d already reached the end of the third inning. I’m assuming they started a bit early (or those were the shortest three innings ever played).
Mills was pitching in the Pawtucket game and Exposito was catching when we arrived; very few of the players we expect to be regulars were in the Pawtucket line-up. I assume a number were off playing at City of Palms with the big club. Even though most of the minor leaguers were “assigned or optioned” on Sunday, many are still actually playing with the ML club (or at least were on Monday, when I went to the Red Sox-Baltimore game). BTW, my sister-in-law says she’s responsible for Ortiz suddenly starting to hit. It’s as good an explanation as any.
Anyway, getting back to today, the most impressive guy I saw in the PawSox game was Bierd. He’s a BIG kid, with legs the length of a pair of stilts. No gun, so I can’t tell you the speed, but it sure looked a lot faster than others I saw pitch and his fastball was all downhill, low in the zone. He struck out two guys in a row on his change-up; the batters looked really foolish, as any batter does when he swings at a fastball and it turns out to be a change. Natale hit a homer during the few innings I watched and Navarro played SS (obviously not at the same time). Note: most of those playing in this game were either names unknown to me, folks like Bubba Bell (not high on our lists), with a handful of guys we expect to see at AA this year but who were filling in with the PawSox team at the moment (Exposito and Navarro). Didn’t see them do anything much at the plate.
After a bit, walked the fifty feet over to the field where the Portland team was playing the Twins’ AA team. There, the lineup was a lot more interesting. A lot of high A players, some of whom we expect to see in Portland, some not. Iglesias was playing short but only had one chance during the two innings we saw while he was in. At the plate, he took a couple of balls, then smashed a line drive deep into the left field corner for a double. Mike Jones had a solid double, Lin struck out (seemed to be struggling), Fedex was hit by a pitch, Middlebrooks took two strikes looking, then fouled a ball off then struck out swinging. Jason Place hit a weak grounder to the left side. Oh, and Lavernway caught for an inning before we had to leave; looked decent behind the plate, but I didn’t get to see him bat.
Overall, it was kind of surprising to see how many of the players were playing a level above where they’re expected to play once the season starts.
Realize none of this tells you a lot, but I’m just trying to write down a little before someone else takes the computer. I may get back over Saturday; if I manage it, I’ll try to go better.