LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Marco Scutaro hit the second pitch of the game for a leadoff homer in the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, but what got everyone's attention in the Boston dugout was a play he made behind the second base bag in the third inning.
Scutaro knocked down a hard-hit ball from Martin Prado, scrambled to his feet quickly and zipped a throw to first to nab the baserunner.
"Last year,'' said Terry Francona, "he probably gets to the ball but can't do anything with it.''
That's because, for most of last season, Scutaro played with a sore right shoulder that progressively weakened as the year progressed. By September, he asked the Sox to move him to second base because he could no longer make routine throws from short.
After a winter of rest, rehab and a strengthening program, Scutaro's shoulder is back to normal, enabling him to make plays like the one he made Wednesday.
"You guys saw the last month of 2010, I couldn't make it,'' said Scutaro. "I pretty much couldn't pull my arm back to make a throw. It felt like every time I went back, it felt like a knife. It was good to work hard in the offseason and now, it's great.''
Scutaro had to change his throwing motion last year to compensate for the pain, but has returned to his more natural mechanics this spring.
"I'm pretty close to where I used to be,'' Scutaro said. "I'm just trying to take it easy on throws during infield practice and batting practice. I just try to get loose and not do too much. The mechanics came back naturally.
"It feels good. It's not like I'm going to hit 50 homers and 199 RBI. But it's a matter of waking up, feeling strong and feeling you can compete.''
Jon Lester's outing -- 4 23 innings, eight hits, three runs allowed on two walks and four strikeouts -- wasn't a thing of beauty, but it at least gave the lefty an opportunity to pitch out of jams.
"It wasn't like they were really driving the ball,'' said Lester. "I was getting bad contact, so that's always a good sign when you're doing that.'
"It's nice to get experience pitching in jams. Obviously, you don't ever want to be in a jam in a regular-season start. But if there's a time to do it, this is it. It's just like anything else -- you've got to practice getting out of jams. I was able to minimize the damage in the first and Andrew Miller did a good job of coming in the fifth and getting out of that jam.''
Francona acknowledged that the results weren't necessarily what Lester was aiming for, but added: "He threw all his pitches, got almost through five innings, threw 79 pitches. I think it was a good spring training outing. He had to work out of the stretch a little. It was another good step forward for him.''
Miller inherited a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth and got the final out before adding a scoreless inning of his own in the sixth.
Dennys Reyes, another contender for a bullpen spot, didn't fare as well, giving up a run on three hits, though he did strike out two.
"When he was down in the zone, he had real good sink,'' said Francona of Reyes. "He made a couple of mistakes, but when he was down, he had real good movement.''