Red Sox notes: Francona hints at lineup


Red Sox notes: Francona hints at lineup

By Sean McAdam

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Having revealed his starting pitching rotation earlier in the week, manager Terry Francona Saturday came close to doing the same with his batting order for the regular season.

Francona said it was likely that for, most games, Jacoby Ellsbury will lead off, followed by Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford. He hinted that Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis were "interchangable'' in the fourth and fifth slots, but is leaning toward having Gonzalez hit fourth most games.

They would be followed by David Ortiz (sixth), J.D. Drew (seventh), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (eighth) and Marco Scutaro (ninth).

Complicating matters somewhat, Francona added, is that the Sox will face C.J. Wilson in the April 1 season opener. For that game, Francona could sit Drew in favor of Mike Cameron and drop Ellsbury to ninth with Scutaro temporarily replacing him at the top.

"Wilson is so tough on lefties,'' said Francona. "That's the one thing that's been messing with me because normally, that's a guy you would do something (different) with. But it's Opening Day, so I don't know how I feel about that.

Scutaro hit leadoff for most of last season when Ellsbury missed all but 18 games thanks to broken ribs.

"The next 10 days, you'll probably see our (regular season) lineup a few times,'' Francona said. "

For the second start in a row, Josh Beckett pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and for the second start in a row, a long inning -- the fourth -- cost him.

Beckett pitched 4 23 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, though only one run was earned thanks to errors by Nate Spears and a throwing error by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"Pretty similar,'' agreed Beckett. "It was just a different inning (than last time) -- fourth inning instead of the fifth. I felt good in several of the other innings.

"You never like to be in jams, but if you show that you can get out of them -- big jams -- it's a confidence thing more than anything.''

Beckett threw 88 pitches and said his arm strength is good. He'll get up to 95 or so pitches in his next Florida start, then taper back when he faces the Astros in Houston two days before the season opener.

"I thought he made a lot of good pitces,'' said Francona. "When the season starts, consistency is a huge thing. But the way the ball's coming out of his hand (is encouraging).''

Francona noted that Beckett's changeup -- a bit softer than in the past -- was a quality pitch, but said the curveball was spotty, with only four strikes thrown out of 17.

Beckett was also miffed that, for the second time in a row, he allowed base hits to the opposing pitcher. Saturday, Kevin Correia had two singles against him, including one which produced two runs.

Daniel Nava made the defensive play of the game, leaping in left to take extra bases away from Andrew McCutchen in the first before firing a cutoff throw to Dustin Pedroia who rifled a relay to first to double up Neil Walker and end the inning.

Earlier in camp, Francona said he thought that Nava had the ability to be a better outfielder than he showed last season.

"I think he's done that this spring,'' said Francona. "I think he's done a better job with (his defense). He's not swung the bat particularly well (.205 for the spring), but he hasn't taken that out to the outfield with him.''

"It's definitely been a focus,'' said Nava. "I'm just being more attentive to that side of the game.''

Hideki Okajima pitched for Single A Greenville Saturday, tossing a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. Okajima threw 15 pitches...The Sox have their only scheduled off-day of the spring Wednesday, but Adrian Gonzalez will DH in a game at the minor league complex to get some extra at-bats...Alfredo Aceves pitched two innings and gave up a two-run homer to John Bowker...Staff member and batting practice pitcher Ino Guerrero was hospitalized Friday and held overnight after a bad reaction to a nerve blocker shot in his shoulder...Monday's pitching matchup in Clearwater could be a beauty: Jon Lester vs. Roy Halladay. They're two of the four pitchers who've won 50 or more games in the last three seasons...Spears has been told he won't make the club for Opening Day, but will spend the rest of the spring with the major league club, where he offers versatility.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win


Betts and Bradley Jr. combine for seven RBI, Red Sox roll to 9-2 win

The Boston Red Sox put up six runs in the first inning and coasted to a 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. led the way for the Red Sox with four and three RBI respectfully. Both outfielders had two-run home runs in the Sox’ big first inning.

Knuckleballer Steven Wright gave up one earned run in four innings, his ERA for the spring is now 0.68.

The Red Sox are back in action again on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m when Rick Porcello makes his final spring training start against the Minnesota Twins.

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Hernandez has chance at Red Sox opening day roster after Rutledge injury

Infielder Marco Hernandez may make the Red Sox roster after all.

Fellow infielder Josh Rutledge, the presumptive 25th man on the Red Sox, suffered a left hamstring strain on Tuesday against the Pirates, according to reporters in Florida, including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald.

If Rutledge isn’t ready for opening day, Hernandez, a left-handed hitter, may have his crack. 

The question is whether the Sox would be comfortable without a right-handed bat to complement both Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland on the corners. Rutledge was going to give the Sox that right-handed look they sought. (When Hanley Ramirez's shoulder will be healthy enough to play first base is unclear, but isn't expected to be too long.)

Neither Rutledge nor Hernandez has played first base in the majors or minors.

A big-league rookie last year, Hernandez has done decently against lefties at the upper levels of the minors, hitting .328 vs. them at Triple-A Pawtucket last season in 67 at-bats. He hit .315 in 54 at-bats at Pawtucket, with a .318 average against them that season in 88 at-bats for Double-A Portland.

Rutledge is a Rule 5 draft pick who has to remain on the major league 25-man roster the whole season or the Sox risk losing him. Placement on the disabled list doesn’t affect his status unless he’s on the disabled list for a very lengthy time.

An alternative option is Steve Selsky, who has first-base experience, but he's already been optioned.