By Jeff Louderback
For established veterans whose respective roles on the team are already determined, spring training numbers mean little. These players use February and March to get in “baseball” shape and work on their mechanics and techniques. For top prospects in Major League camp and veterans who are non-roster invitees and striving to make the opening day roster, impressive spring training performances are valuable.
Thursday’s game, which saw the Red Sox pummel the Pittsburgh Pirates (16-6), is a prime example.
John Lackey, who is regaining his durability and form after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2011, served up three runs and three hits with a walk and a strikeout in two innings. So far this spring, he has permitted four runs and four with to accompany two strikeouts and two walks in three innings. Lackey’s ineffectiveness to date is no surprise since those are his first two appearances since Tommy John surgery. How he pitches is late March will be more relevant.
Chris Carpenter and Terry Doyle – two pitchers likely destined to open 2013 at Triple-A Pawtucket – each tossed two scoreless frames on Thursday. The 27-year-old Carpenter, who is a right-handed reliever with a high 90s heater, has logged three scoreless innings in two outings. Also right-hander and 27, Doyle is a starting pitcher who provides depth and has allowed one run and four hits over four innings in February. Doyle, who is known for throwing strikes, has five strikeouts and no walks. His ability to effectively attack the strike zone is certainly something that is gaining John Farrell’s attention.
Chris Hernandez, a 24-year-old left-handed starting pitcher who has performed well at every level in the Red Sox farm system and is in his first Major League spring training camp, is struggling in the early stages. He surrendered two runs and two hits in one inning versus the Pirates and has coughed up five runs and six hits in three innings for a 15.00 ERA. Hernandez is a finesse pitcher who has an array of plus offerings, but he is not overpowering and relies on location and deception to generate outs. Hitters have been too comfortable against him in spring training.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt are two position players who are drawing the attention of Farrell and his coaches this spring.
The 22-year-old Bradley was 3-for-5 with three runs on Thursday and is now 8-for-14 (.571). The left-handed hitting Bradley is an exceptionally gifted outfielder who could make the opening day roster and see time at the corner outfield spots.
As for Holt, the 24-year-old left-handed hitter plays second base, shortstop and third base, and is competing with Pedro Ciriaco for the utility infielder’s job. Holt was 2-for-4 with a walk on Thursday and is 5-for-13 (.385) in February. Holt has a better bat than Ciriaco, but Ciriaco is better in the field.