FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It almost wasn't fair.
There were Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz getting ready to take their first batting practice swings off live pitching, and they had to step in against Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball.
Youkilis flailed at a few offerings, Ortiz jokingly started running toward one of the approaching pitches, and Crawford appeared overwhelmed.
"Crawford was asking, 'Does Wake know he's making it go this way, that way, up, down?' '' recounted Jason Varitek, who caught the session. "I told him no. But that was the perception of some not as familiar with the knuckler, like he was trying to make it go toward the feet, he's trying to make it go away from them. I was like, interesting -- if he did, he should let us know.''
Varitek himself is getting re-acquianted with Wakefield's signature pitch this spring. It's been a while since he last caught him much in a game and there are still vivid memories of Varitek being unable to handle the pitch in the 2004 ALCS against New York.
Since then, of course, Wakefield has been paired with Doug Mirabellli, Kevin Cash, Victor Martinez and others. But it's time for Varitek to work with him and prepare.
"Wakefield is the one guy we always kept Varitek away from,'' said Terry Francona. "We want both catchers to have the ability to catch Wake so we don't ever feel like we're boxed in if Wakefield comes out of the bullpen.
"I think he caught him earlier in his career, and then when he was the everyday catcher, he was catching so much, that Wakefield's starts were just the obvious day to give him off. If you're not catching him regularly, that's not an easy thing to do. But Varitek can catch anybody. That won't be issue. He just needs some repition with him . . . We'll get both of those guys comfortable.''
The Red Sox have a number of players with zero-to-three years service time unsigned in camp, including pitchers Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz, infielder Jed Lowrie and outfielder Darnell McDonald.
The aforementioned players don't have much leverage, since they're noteligible for salary arbitration.
Major League Baseball has a deadline for players in that service class to be signed by the first week of March. Members of the Red Sox Baseball Operations Department have only recently reached out to the agents representing the players, though little progress has been made.
Ultimately, the Sox can unilaterally determine the salaries, though the club tends to take less of a hard-line with its younger players than some other franchises.
This season, the major-league minimum is increased to 414,000. The four players in that class will, to varying degrees, be paid significantly above that figure.
Reliever Dennys Reyes, who was signed earlier this month, has had some visa issues. He and countryman Alfredo Aceves will go to the Mexican consulate in Hermosillo Wednesday morning and are expected back into camp the next day.
Aceves is already in camp and has been throwing without restriction; Reyes, a lefty, has yet to report.
Francona doesn't believe Reyes's late arrival will hinder him in attempting to make the club.
"If he hasn't been throwing and he's behind, that wouldn't be good,'' said Francona. "I imagine he knows what he's in for. He knows he's in competition. He certainly wants to put his best foot forward. I certainly would be surprised if he allowed himself to get behind. We certainly don't want him to be behind.''