Quick Thoughts: Red Sox vs. Twins, March 2

Quick thoughts while listening to the Red Sox Grapefruit League opener Wednesday morning: 

I managed to resolve at least some of my issues with MLB At Bat. Mostly user error, as you might have guessed. GameDay Audio, while not sold standalone on MLB.com anymore, is still available simply with the purchase of the At Bat app (though, you do have to go into the app setting to connect the app to your MLB.com account – i.e., the one step I was missing on Friday).

I’ll have to wait one more day to hear the WEEI broadcast, though, as they are not slated to cover today’s game. I’ll have to settle for Minnesota’s TIBN broadcast — oddly, from jetBlue Park.

  • Here we go with the first of 4,000 Spring Training games against the Twins over the next month …
  • Seriously, though, as a listener, I so would have preferred the Sox share a training city with the St. Louis Cardinals. If I have to listen to another broadcast team, the Cardinals’ Mike Shannon would be my choice every time.
  • Among the many, many Spring Training oddities (jersey numbers in the 70s and 80s and 14 pitchers used per game immediately come to mind), the lack of a pregame show always takes some getting used to. It’s basically the intro music, starting lineups and then first pitch.
  • It is so hard to gauge what a good outing and what a bad outing actually look like in the spring. As much as the college exhibition games are throwaways, the actual Grapefruit League games don’t deviate a whole lot either. Remember last Spring when Mike Napoli was looking like a potential MVP candidate? On the other hand, remember when Mookie Betts looked like a budding superstar, and then turned in a regular season worthy of a budding superstar?
  • Henry Owens is another potential important piece this year (see my thoughts on Steven Wright from Monday). I just can’t see the projected starting five being the actual starting five by the time June and July roll around. Eduardo Rodriguez‘s knee injury is particularly troubling to me. It just seems like something that will linger, regardless of how minor it may seem. If focus was a problem last year during periods where he was tipping his pitches, what would the potential of trying to pitch through a nagging leg pain do to his in-game routine?
  • Top 1st: OK, that’s a shaky start. Only four of Owens’ first 12 pitches were for strikes as he loaded the bases on a single and two walks. Coming back with big swing-and-miss strikeouts for outs 2 and 3 with the bases full was an important moment for him.
  • Top 2nd: Shaky start transforms into a decent line – five strikeouts in two innings, no runs allowed, pitched out of a big jam. Let’s chalk those first 12 pitches up to shaking off some rust and finding a groove.
  • Daniel Murphy is potentially a solid late addition. With him, Chris Young, Travis Shaw and potentially Allen Craig in the mix to add outfield depth, it just feels like Boston is hedging its bets for a scenario where one of the starting three doesn’t pan out. Whatever your feelings about the starting lineup, you have to be feeling good about the depth off the bench with Brock Holt and Shaw able to fill a variety of rolls and Craig, Murphy and Sam Travis in the wings. In that respect, this year’s club has a certain feel like the 2013 club in the utility or platoon contributors available off the bench – Middlebrooks, Nava, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp. The role players on that team were the difference makers. One wonders if this season is shaping up similarly.
  • Speaking of hedging bets, what in the world is going on with Rusney Castillo? Could this be the extended lead-in to potentially the worst deal in club history? After the frequent and random injuries last season and the lack of consistency when he wasn’t injured, now he’s been sick -basically since the start of camp. He’s supposed to make his debut Thursday night. There are a lot of guys there to fill a hole. Adding Murphy seems an unnecessary move with Holt and Shaw available, unless sometime more is going on. Say what you will about Pablo Sandoval – he’s out there, actually playing.
  • Top 6th: Alright, first appearance for Carson Smith. If I’m ranking the offseason moves right now, this is No. 1. Three up, three down on three pitches — all strikes hit for groundouts. That was quick.
  • Bot 9th: Sac fly from Sam Travis. Sure, we’re just one and two half games in, but he has yet to disappoint. Long, long month ahead to see where he shakes out.
  • Final: Twins 7, Red Sox 4. Carson Smith was great. So, by the end of his appearance, was Henry Owens. Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne left some to be desired against roughly to lower portions of the Twins’ Spring roster.

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